What does the Australian Cricket Team and the Metalicus brand have in common right now?
Yes, I know, it's an unusual question.
But right now I see uncanny parallels in both businesses that anyone that owns a business or handles the social media for a business should learn from and avoid.
For those of you unaware of the cheating scandal unfolding around Cricket Australia (and for some of my overseas readers, you can get up to speed here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-26/australia-facing-accusations-of-hypocrisy-amid-ball-tampering/9585342)
Cricket in Australia is the sport (even if you are not into sport) that unites a country.
We eagerly tune into the Ashes tests against England, we swelter thru tests on Boxing Day in Melbourne and we have (in the past) treated the role of captain of the Australian Cricket team as something akin to the Prime Minister
Cricket in Australia has a unique and special place within the fabric of our community.
So their tone deaf and sluggish response to the cheating scandal is causing massive ripples in all parts of the community - both online and offline.
It is their online response that I am focussing on here, their lack of effective social listening and their lack of response to their community.
Currently on their Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/CricketAustralia/ , they have a pinned post with their statement about the scandal, with reams of comments from their community - but NO responses within the streams from them.
I will return to that in a moment.
Metalicus is a label that I have long loved, but now no longer buy.
Metalicus is/was a leading Australian women’s clothing brand that pioneered wearable layered clothing for Women 35+. Comfort, style and sophistication all rolled into one. Not any more.
Retail is a tricky business, especially in the Australian landscape at the moment, which is why the current performance of the Metalicus brand makes no sense. In 2016, the label was sold to General Pants and sometime after that, they decided that a complete rebrand and retelling of their brand story was in order. No longer were they going to serve their existing market, women say 35+ (ie women with access to $$$). They have chosen to move to the crowded female 20+ market with less $$$.
Well actually they didn’t do that second part - the brand retelling part, they simply removed all reference to past comments on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/metalicusaustralia/) and Instagram feeds, deleted all old posts and started to communicate with their existing base with language/terms ("hey babe" for example) and other references at odds with the expectation of their audience.
They also committed the cardinal sin of simply deleting all the negative posts on their Facebook page about their change of direction. For those interested you can still read many of them on their Instagram feed as they are just completely ignoring them.
They have simply stopped the conversation inside their social media channels.
Social Media 101
Both of these businesses have stopped talking to anyone. Whoever is managing these accounts needs to revisit social media 101. Social media is about creating community, brand advocates and interest in your brand.
You can’t simply ignore comments or remove comments that you don’t like.
Our job as business owners or social media managers is to communicate to our tribe. We may not always like what they say, but we can’t just ignore the comments and stay silent. We need to be part of the conversation, no matter how difficult.
Social Media is ubiquitous and it amplifies all that is said about you and your brand to everyone, both online and offline. What is posted online is likely to be a fraction of what is said amongst friends, with work colleagues and in the general community, but what it does do is brandish a megaphone to the wider community about the sentiment of your brand, your product and how you lead that organisation.
And this is where I pull together these 2 seemingly different businesses and highlight the lack of leadership in how they are currently managing these 2 iconic brands. Where is the brand integrity? Where is the understanding of your market? Where is the open communication from your business that in 2018 your audience is demanding?
Community & Transparency
We are constantly told that one of the many changes that a social media savvy audience has brought to business is transparency. This is juxtaposed I realise with the current fake news scandals, manipulation of news feeds by Russian bots and big spending ads to push a message. What I am talking about are the real consequences of not clearly understanding your market or the power of social media. I am talking about the grassroots, fans & advocates who are speaking to you and about you in a public forum that you can't control. These 2 brands are completely ignoring their audience and shutting them out.
As business owners and marketers, we cannot be tone deaf when things go wrong.
It often starts small and un-noticed, the habit of not answering or commenting when people post on your feed. Especially if they have a grumble that you think, "what's wrong with them?" and you either ignore it or delete it.
I am not talking about leaving posts that defame someone or posts that are not fit for public consumption, live. Delete them and remind your community that your facebook page is a place of mutual respect and swearing is not tolerated, or comments that potentially defame others are not tolerated - but let your community know.
Tell them when you do this - don’t hide it.
It is a mistake to think that noone is talking about your brand online just because you can't see negative comments inside your Facebook page, twitter feed or on Instagram. Be attuned to what your community is talking about.
It is easy enough to do a search inside your platform of choice to see what people might be saying about your business or brand when you are aware of a potential issue. A price change, a fault in product, an issue with an event, a branding realignment away from your current customer base, cheating by your national captain.
Just search inside the browser. It is like the phone ringing with complaints and you choosing to let the calls go to the answering machine. We all know how that is received. It makes the problem worse. I know in our business when things have been a little difficult that Brendon or I have needed to step in and take the calls. It is our business, our responsibility and the buck stops with us. We have responded online to concerns and not hidden behind a junior team member to handle the issue.
Social Listening vs Social Selling
It is not easy.
But you are your brand. The leadership team of a larger organisation is the brand.
You can’t hide behind silence.
You can’t ignore critics.
And you can’t shut out the voices of your community. Social listening is just as important as Social selling.
And when you hear them, respond.
Your leadership at these times is what builds your brand and business over the long term.
I don’t often name and shame inside my Blog, but I see this all the time inside social media, big business making hugely preventable mistakes and then wondering what happened to their market.
You turned them off, one unanswered comment at a time.