Should Social Media Voice Change During a Brand Crisis?
We all had a good laugh this week when JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater used profanity over the plane’s announcement system, stole a couple of beers, and slid down the emergency slide after a passenger cursed at him. (And in a stranger-than-fiction moment was arrested by police at his home while reportedly in flagrante.)
Now that the guy is out on bail, you’d think the whole thing would blow over in a couple of days. At least after the requisite articles, parodies, jokes, and late show appearances.
But something happened that’s pushing this whole thing back into the spotlight. At least from a social media case study perspective. A few members of the JetBlue Twitter team responded to some obviously tongue-in-cheek tweets and got called out for lacking a sense of humor.
Not a big deal, right?
Acknowledging his tweets is like poking a stick into a wasp nest. Doing it without a sense of humor is like sticking your whole arm in there.
The JetBlue Twitter responses weren’t necessarily social media smack talk, and certainly nowhere near the level of Nestle’s little Facebook tirade a few months back, but considering that responding to a Borowitz jab is the equivalent of pressing the big red button to confirm WWIII, you have to wonder what the JetBlue tweeters were thinking. The JetBlue Twitter responses lacked JetBlue’s familiar light-heartedness, and did little more than encourage a Twitter throwdown.
Borowitz ran with the ball and continued to tweet JetBlue jokes, leading followers in the Twittersphere to dub it a “Twitter War.”
JetBlue’s Twitter stream went dark for about 10 hours after the Borowitz incident and the next update simply stated JetBlue would not be commenting on an ongoing investigation.
Um, little late for that. It’s already gone from zero to take-off.
In the ensuing hours, a more polished social media response began to emerge that resonated with the JetBlue brand in a way the Twitter responses didn’t.
On JetBlue’s blog, the writer embraced the situation in a self-deprecating voice… with just enough humor to remind you that you love JetBlue almost as much as Southwest.
The JetBlue Facebook Page discussion area also filled up with posts calling for mercy for Steven Slater. JetBlue tastefully posted a link to the blog post within the Facebook Page, and continued to allow discussion without giving any appearance of censorship.
Everything that JetBlue has done AFTER the initial tweets has been right on target:
1. JetBlue used its venues strategically and soundly, choosing to communicate a response in a blog post instead of blanketing its channels with defensiveness.
2. JetBlue kept its voice real and human and didn’t switch to stark language and tone.
3. JetBlue left its channels open for comment and engaged in the discussion.
So what happened on Twitter?
In an Advertising Age article, JetBlue’s Twitter response is defended, asserting that not responding to Borowitz would have reflected a nonchalant attitude about the issue and encouraged lawsuits.
Considering there were other tactics engaged that handled the crisis both professionally and in-brand, it’s more likely the corporate tweeters were shut down after making personal decisions to respond to Borowitz.
From a brand perspective, a community channel isn’t the right place to break brand or scold a follower or commenter. A well-defined channel strategy that clarifies the purpose and boundaries of each venue is essential to the foundation of a social media effort. And a mandate that community managers stay in brand voice on all channels at all times should be the prime directive.
Conversing in social media may seem like a “just a conversation,” but it’s so much more than that. Every tweet and every response has to come from the soul of the brand. Even in the face of crisis or criticism.
Join the Conversation…
1. How should a brand respond to a crisis? Do you think breaking with established brand voice is justified in certain cases?
2. Should a community manager or channel manager be expected to have an intimate understanding of the brand before taking over the community reigns?
3. Is there a right place for a brand to respond sternly to followers or commenters?