8 Cringe-Worthy Community Management Nightmares and How Your Brand Can Avoid Them

By Bon Miller

All companies strive to achieve a positive brand image and an authentic connection with customers. That’s why it makes sense for them to invest in social media marketing and community management services that enable them to engage with their customers and address their concerns in a more accessible platform. 

While social media has given companies the chance to become more visible and connect with customers like never before, it also presents a myriad of community management challenges. Even the biggest firms and experienced individuals have come under fire when it comes to social media fails. We’ve rounded up 8 cringe-worthy community management nightmares to learn from so you don’t end up making the same mistakes. 

Picking a fight with trolls

Online trolls are inevitable and their main mission is to wreak havoc and bring negativity on social media. As a community manager, one of the worst things you can do is to become a corporate troll yourself. Tesco Mobile conducted a #nojoke campaign to make them more appealing to young people. This approach enabled their Twitter admins to respond to negative tweets about Tesco Mobile by poking fun at the trolls. Their company trolling tactics got a lot of engagement, but were borderline obnoxious. 

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway: There is a fine line between being fun and engaging and being offensive and nasty. You will always lose when you engage with trolls. Company trolling also runs the risk of being perceived negatively by genuine customers and worst case, having them unfollow you. Instead of engaging in heated exchanges with trolls, just ignore, block, or report them. It’s better to make a good impression and be a brand that’s likable and amplifies positive sentiment. 

Insulting customers

Things tend to go south faster when a customer insults you or your business. In the following bad customer service example, the head chef of Boston-based restaurant, Pigalle, engaged in a nasty Facebook rant with a customer over a negative review:

Social Media Mistakes - Insult Customers
Image source: Facebook

Our Takeaway: You guessed it- insulting your customers will lead them to never doing business with you again. Before responding to a negative comment, take a deep breath and ask yourself the following questions: “Is what I’m saying professional? Does it help the customer? Or am I just trying to take a jab at them? How can I genuinely address their concerns?” When handling negative comments on social media, it pays to be calm, respectful and accountable for any inconvenience. Most of the time, people just need to be heard. 

Adding fuel to the fire

Nestlé’s Facebook page was called out by protesters over their alleged use of palm oil in chocolate products from deforested areas of Indonesia. Instead of responding profesionally, they got into arguments with their detractors, made it personal, came off as defensive and further fueled the angry protests. 

Image source: Facebook

Our Takeaway: It’s never a good idea to add fuel to the fire. It’s always best to respond in a constructive and polite manner, no matter how negative the comment. Make sure to create a protocol for how to respond to negative press so you can deescalate the situation and even turn it around.

Mishandled corporate responses

People tweeted their disapproval of Kmart’s lack of ethics when the company announced that they would open earlier on Thanksgiving and would stay open through all of Black Friday. Kmart responded to all complaints with the the exact same impersonal “corporate” response, which only made things worse.

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway:  Personalized responses to angry customers will always be better than a “corporate” generic response which will surely put the customers off. Make your replies more personal and refer to the customer using his/her name. Use a positive conversational tone to connect with them in a more authentic way. 

Relying on automated response bots

It’s good to automate some aspects of your social media (like post scheduling), but when it comes to replying to people’s comments and feedback, brands shouldn’t rely solely on auto-reply bots.

Back in April 2015, American Airlines merged with US Airways, thus creating the largest airline company in the world. One of their initiatives included automating tweets to reflect their excitement over the news. Unfortunately, the bot was not able to differentiate between friendly and unfriendly tweets and ended up thanking a user for a message that was anything but positive.

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway: Automated responses can help save time, but it can be the worst nightmare during a PR crisis or when an offensive or offended customer takes it to social media. Constantly check in and make sure a bot isn’t getting into trouble. Read through genuine customer comments, and take the time to understand what they have to say. 

Not checking facts

One of the biggest mistakes of community management is not verifying facts or details before replying to customers. Chick-Fil-A responded carelessly to a customer’s comment on store location suggestions, making it seem like they needed a refresher on world geography.

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway: Read comments and questions properly. Be sure to get your facts right before posting or engaging with anyone on social media. 

Asking customers to switch channels

When community managers aren’t empowered or knowledgeable enough to help customers with their issues online, it results in companies asking customers to switch channels and reach out instead by phone, email, or even by switching from one social media platform (such as Facebook) to the another (such as Twitter). This clogs customer service channels, wastes everyone’s time, and is frustrating for everyone involved.

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway: Provide your community managers with the right knowledge, tools, and protocols so that they can be empowered to troubleshoot online, and address customers where they are. Try to stay on one platform as much as possible. In some cases when switching channels is necessary to take care of sensitive information, opt to DM the customer and ask them for their phone number and what time they can be reached. Be proactive and reach out to schedule the call according to what works for them. 

Not responding quickly

In this age of social media, customers are now expecting brands to be available 24//7. While many companies might not have the budget to have an army of community managers ‘round the clock, customers would appreciate being heard in a timely manner. Leaving messages unattended for more than what’s an acceptable time could show the public that your company doesn’t care about your customers, making them feel ignored and undervalued. In this example below, Amtrak’s customer service replied to a customer concern that was posted 7 months prior. 

Image source: Twitter

Our Takeaway: The best thing to do for community managers is to respond to genuine inquiries and feedback as quickly as possible, preferably within 24 hours. Of course this depends on company resources and the size of the community management team, but this is something to strive for. If information is not available at the moment, at least acknowledge their message and let them know that you’ll get back to them as soon as possible. Make sure there is someone on standby who can check in on weekends that can address any urgent concerns. 

Community Management might be an afterthought for social media strategies, but it’s becoming an essential tool in converting and retaining customers. Ultimately, what most customers want is to be heard. They want to feel that their opinions and experiences are important and acknowledged, becoming more likely to stay with the companies that can offer this. Social media has made customer service even more accessible and just one small mishap can result in community management nightmares that can ruin your brand image and marketing efforts.

It’s not always easy to craft the perfect response to customers online, but our expert Community Managers have mastered the art of community management so you won’t have to worry about making the same mistakes. Contact us for information on our Community Management Services.