In our previous blog post, we examined two big social media disasters, their impact on the companies in question, and the learnings that resulted. The Chapstick and McDonald’s campaigns were failures mainly because of certain strategic mistakes that these companies made.
But what happens when other forces create a social media disaster for a company? In the virtual world, a rival company, a disgruntled (or even careless) employee or a prankster can cause serious issues for organisations. That is why it is imperative to have a crisis management strategy in place with regard to social media, too. It’s a different world, with different rules – which means it calls for a plan that takes these factors into account.
Let’s take a look at a company that faced external attacks, how it dealt with them (or not), and what key takeaways from this case are:
Dell Hell. The indicators began in 2005, when famous blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote a blog post entitled “Dell lies. Dell sucks” about a terrible customer service experience he had with his new Dell laptop. The criticism spread through the Internet over the next few months, yet it elicited no response from the company. A few months later, Jarvis wrote an open letter to the CEO Michael Dell, asking him to “Read blogs… Talk with your consumers… Listen to all your bad press and bad blog PR and consumer dissatisfaction and falling stock price… Then show us how you are going to improve quality and let us help. Make better computers and hire customer service people who serve customers.”
Sadly, Jarvis’ plea appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. The reverberations of Jarvis’ letter and other negative online feedback spread far and wide. Still, it seemed Dell had no strategic response, to online plan of action. The conversation about Dell went on and on and on, but Dell itself refused to be a part of the dialogue.
Then came the last straw: In 2006, Gizmodo published a photograph of a Dell laptop exploding into flames on a table during a conference in Japan. To nobody’s surprise, the picture spread like wildfire through cyberspace, and Dell eventually had to recall four million laptop batteries.
One month after the photograph of the exploding laptop surfaced, Dell launched its first corporate social media blog. From then on, it was clear that the company had decided to turn things around and come up with a proactive social media and online strategy. In 2007, Dell launched an online platform, IdeaStorm, to capture consumer inputs and ideas. They then began to score these ideas based on the number of times they were suggested by consumers. The website lists the ideas and provides information on whether and how they are being implemented. To date, over 17,000 ideas have been submitted, and more than 500 have been implemented.
This was followed by lucrative online outlets, a Twitter account in 2008, awards and accolades for social media usage, and other Twitter accounts to streamline and centralise customer issues in 2010. Today, Dell has emerged as a leader in the social media space. The period known as Dell Hell, characterised by the company’s silence and non-responsiveness to all criticism, is over. Taking note of the negative impact on its reputation and credibility, Dell took Jarvis’ and other critics’ advice and began listening to its consumer base. It became a part of the conversation and actually constructively used the feedback to better its products. Dell’s well thought-out and innovative social media strategy has helped it turn failure into success.