No matter how prepared your company is when engaging with customers through social media sites there is bound to be a public misstep. It can be a criticism from an unhappy customer or an error made by your social media team but in order to save face, it comes down to how you handle it.
A perfect example of how to handle a public mishap would be how J.C. Penney took to social media to address claims that a billboard containing a new product bared a very close resemblance to The Furor himself, Adolf Hitler. The product in question was a $40 tea kettle.
When the billboard was posted just off the Los Angeles 405 freeway, tea kettle designer, Michael Graves, posted a status on his Facebook page which stated, “You won’t be able to stop yourself from whistling at us when you see this billboard off the 405 Freeway in LA!!! If you find it safely shoot us a pic if you can.”
Apparently a user from the social media site Reddit took Graves’ advice and snapped a shot of the billboard, posted it online, and commented on its reference to Hitler. Within a few hours the snapshot went viral and everyone was talking about the Nazi kettle.
Soon social media users were tweeting and retweeting the billboard images, posting it all over Facebook, and countless articles from various media outlets were soon written. Even comedian Patton Oswald and actress and activist Mia Farrow chimed in.
JCP has seen its fair amount of bad press within the past two years, and it really didn’t need any more but the home décor and clothing retailer handled what could have been a social media disaster in stride.
JCP sent out a few tweets to its followers stating that the marketing move was completely unintentional, “if we had been strategizing, we probably would have gone with a cute puppy or kitty kettle,” the store tweeted at numerous followers.
The company soon took the product off its website, but only after it was already sold out. But that didn’t stop the tea kettle from selling on other sites, one sold on eBay by a private seller for nearly $200.
“I think what they did was the perfect response,” said Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting.