Since the 1970’s, more and more emphasis has been placed on individuality and strength of one’s character. While this concept of “self-esteem” has driven many different psychological, social and technological movements, it is important not to get caught up in the belief that group, pack or crowd mentality has been erased. In fact, with the strength of today’s online communities, the crowd of today is not rioting right outside our doors, they’re safe at home but armed with keyboards and ultra high speed internet connections rather than pitchforks. Why should you worry about this vague, faceless collective? Online communities are the perfect environment for controversy to spawn a complete social media-wielding militia.
Lately, we have seen online communities begin to exert their influence over the presidential race. This is a far cry from the public shaming of pop culture icons or rabid business owners. An example of this is when the owners of Amy’s Baking Company were forced to shut down all their social media accounts due to an outcry over their disastrous appearance on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. In this case, online community Reddit had published a story on their main page relating to the episode and within hours there were thousands of Facebook comments and posts touting the shortcomings of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. On many posts, the two owners hurled insults of their own feeding into an all out spectacle and poor publicity. Even though many had speculated that their business was close to failing anyway, this disastrous incident did nothing to help the matter.
While they were bound to garner some remarks on their own social media pages after the airing of the Kitchen Nightmares finale, the stories connection with the Reddit community is what many believe pushed their brand into exile. Reddit garners over 37 million visitors each month, according to SEMrush.com. The hostile attitude of this community towards the owners of Amy’s Baking Company stemmed form a belief that the owners were treating their employees poorly. This spurred the community into action. They believed that the right thing to do was to retaliate via social media and end the antics of Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. Shortly after this incident, Amy’s Baking Company was forced to close it’s doors, move locations and then finally in July of 2015, close its doors forever.
While this is an extreme example, we can see the crowd mentality that has supported attacks on other pop culture icons, presidential candidates, and social commentators. While it all seems childish, it is better to know your enemy rather than be swept away in a tidal wave of comments if you land on the wrong side of the controversy. Know how to freeze comments on all your social media accounts and insulate yourself from mass attacks. Also, be sure to have a PR firm or publicists contact information handy. When dealing with traditional media outlets, they know how to play the game and spin the story. These are who you need on your side, as many newspapers, television and radio stations pick up on stories that begin online. These two approaches will help curb any disaster that can result.
Next, acknowledge your fault in the situation. People respond positively to companies and individuals who not necessarily take the blame, but who remain accountable. If you can craft a statement that clearly puts forth your point of view and plans for the future, it will have more impact than the faceless voices of the crowd.
These methods can help you or your business survive a massive social-media based public relations breakdown. By putting your best foot forward, the public will be more than likely to welcome you back. After all, Volkswagen is still in business, Taco Bell still serves food and Donald Trump made it onto a ballot. America loves to forgive and forget, as long as you are willing to help.