In case you haven’t been keeping up on your popular internet news, Applebees has stumbled into the hornet’s nest known as the “Internet backlash” following the termination of food server Chelsea Welch. Ms. Welch posted a receipt she received from a customer who wrote a decidedly controversial message on the bill, refusing to pay the restaurant-suggested tip that Applebees (not the food server!) adds for serving large parties. Being of the digital age, Ms. Welch did what many do (right or wrong) when something offends them: they share it on the internet. And as things sometimes do on the internet, outrage happens.
Here’s where the fun begins. Instead of circling the lawyers around the Applebee’s camp and running some professional damage control, someone with control over Applebee’s Facebook page took it upon themselves to argue with the entire internet. They did it poorly and clearly without “adult supervision.”
Rule #1 of the internet: “Don’t get into an argument on the internet.”
Rule #2 of the internet: “Don’t post in anger.”
What this means for you:
If you are in business, and your business has an online component: Facebook page, Twitter account, G+ presence, etc., how you use that account is possibly one of the most powerful brand management tools in your arsenal. As a famous superhero is known to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Part of that responsibility is understanding exactly what impact your status update, tweet, post, etc. can have. In the case of Ms. Welch, she didn’t have a large audience to start with. I’m sure she shared the photo with only a handful of friends…who then went on to share with their friends…and so on, and so on. You get the picture. Also keep in mind that if you have employees, make sure they understand the responsibility they have in representing your company’s brand on the internet, officially, or informally. You don’t need to police their Twitter postings and friend them on Facebook, but it doesn’t hurt to gently remind them that if they are representing themselves as employees of your firm, that representation doesn’t end the minute they clock out at work, especially if they clearly (and proudly) display you as their employer on their social media profiles.