It was a Restaurateur’s worst nightmare. In the span of a few minutes of video posted to YouTube, a 50 year old brand was brought low. Two (fired and facing felony charges) employees of a franchise location of Domino’s Pizza recorded a video of themselves doing horrendous and disgusting things to food that was potentially about to be served to an unsuspecting customer. The video went viral. The YouTube video reached one million views in less than 3 days. References to it were in five of the 12 top search results on the first page of Google search for “Dominos,” and discussions about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter. Several major news outlets have covered the incident, including the New York Times, USA Today and Fox News.
Reportedly Domino’s knew about the video for nearly 48-hours before it launched a PR blitz to respond to the overwhelming amounts of negative comments, and comments faulting the company for not responding in a timely manner. They were first notified of the video from bloggers that had seen it online. The company itself was not monitoring what was being said about its brand and reputation online. That was a fatal mistake that has brought great damage in customer confidence and loyalty and has crushed an iconic brand.
As Domino’s is starting to realize, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises. In November, Motrin posted an ad suggesting that carrying babies in slings was a painful new fad. Unhappy mothers posted Twitter complaints about it, and bloggers followed; within days, Motrin had removed the ad and apologized, but as with Domino’s, it was a case of too little, too late.
There was no one watching out for their brand online.
If this can happen to a mighty chain with a fifty year history, how much can it affect independent restaurants, smaller chains, and family owned businesses? If you are in the restaurant industry, or for that matter, in any industry that can be reviewed online, you cannot afford to ignore what is being said about you online. Many restaurateurs are not even aware of the many sites and places where people can and are talking about them online. Sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, Metromix, Getsatisfaction.com, and Trip Advisor offer consumers a platform to get their complaints or raves heard.
Crises Communications is not a new practice, but it is new when trying to be performed in Social Media. There are several tools though for low to no cost for a restaurateur to watch what is being said about them (good or bad) online. You can do simple things, such as setting up Google Alerts, or searching Twitter and blogs to monitor what is being said, or you can pay for more robust search tools to and firms to do it for you (We offer such services for clients). No matter what you do though, you need to start watching what is being said starting now, and on a regular basis. Domino’s and Motrin failed to respond quickly 48 hours is an eternity online, and the damage is done.
What is the cost of not paying attention, or “hoping it will go away”? A majority of your business could be in jeopardy. 89% of US online buyers read customer reviews before they purchase: 43% most of the time, 22% all of the time. A bad reputation hits your bottom line.
So what should you do? Here are a few things to get you started:
· Create a Crisis Communication plans for online issues.
· Execute effective online Customer Service.
· Get the tools to monitor what’s being said online about your brand, your company, and you.
· Learn the strategies and steps to take to respond to information already posted.
· Learn the strategies and steps to take to have negative information removed, mitigated, or retracted.
If you are in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area, we are holding a seminar on April 28th, 2009 on The ROI of Managing your Online Reputation & Brand. Click here for more details: http://onlinereputation.eventbrite.com/.