Tuesday May 21, 2013

Front of the House: Lessons from ABC Bakery's Battle with the Internet

The story of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Bistro and Café--now know to all by the fractal-like name ABC Baking Company--continues to be glorious tidal wave of slow motion train wrecks.

If you don't follow cooking shows or the Internet, you might not have heard about the owners of the Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant who sent outrageous, angry responses to their Facebook and Reddit detractors pretty much all night long. Who caused culinary hothead Gordon Ramsey to abandon an episode of his show "Kitchen Nightmares" when he found ABC Baking Company to be a nightmare machine he couldn't repair.

But the saga is fast becoming a classic social media case study. Forbes contributor Kelly Clay gleaned “Six Things You Should Never Do On Social Media” from the meltdown (which as been updated now to include seven lessons); Clay’s blog included both rather obvious advice – such as “Don’t Insult People” and also some more specific guidance executives really do need to pay attention to: “If someone mentions you or your business on Reddit, seriously consider whether you can and want to get involved in the discussion.”

Amy’s is reopening today as the owners attempt to restart their business and reconnect with their customers on social media. Profit has some tips for ABC Baking Company, here’s some sage advice taken from some of our recent interviews with social media experts. It’s advice that Amy’s owners – and other executives – can keep their social media plans from collapsing like an undercooked pizza.

Create a Good Social Media Policy: According to Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing: “You need to spell out the purpose of your community. What are things that you will respond to and what are things that will be deleted on sight? I think a lot of people get sucked into social media without realizing you can have certain boundaries and dictate some rules. It doesn’t have to be the Wild, Wild West, and a good policy certainly helps you do that.”

Take Your Customers Seriously: “One of the biggest mistakes I still see is people trying to cover their butts,” says Ric Dragon, CEO of DragonSearch and author of Social Marketology. “Deleting comments or not responding quickly, these are the worst things you could do. When it comes to social media, organizations need to be transparent, honest and authentic. This has to be a strong part of your company’s culture, and communicated from the top down.”

Prepare for Rejection: There will always be detractors, but you should pay attention to the proportion of negative v. positive comments, and be prepared to shift course if you notice a trend. As I wrote in an previous blog, “You can't be surprised when you make a mistake or encounter a troll--and the result is a snarky, pointed, or downright combative response from a user. Develop a plan and develop a thick skin.”

Consider Outsourcing: If you are too busy to handle social media marketing on a consistent basis, you may consider outsourcing. (This may also be a good strategy if you are too close to your business and will take critical comments personally. Ahem).

But taking this approach doesn’t mean you get to check out, says Madhur Chaturvedi, director of Insight and Customer Strategy at Oracle. “In such situations, however, companies should make sure they retain control of and full editorial rights to what is being posted on their behalf. Companies can do this by putting in placed automated approval workflows and escalation processes between their partners and internal teams.

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Updates from Profit editor Aaron Lazenby and an inside look at the creation of the magazine. Also, exclusive online content updates and news about business and technology.

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