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Amy's Baking Co: Poster child for social media marketing plan mistakes

SearchCRM's Lena Weiner looks to an episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares for some key examples of mistakes to avoid when launching a social CRM initiative.

The appeal of using social media marketing for your organization is obvious: Social media is a great democratizer. Nowhere else can anyone -- from a suburban soccer mom to a tech CEO to a 19-year old college student -- reach out and touch anyone, anywhere in the world. The success stories of social media marketing plans are many, but there have also been lots of bloopers. In a sea of social media, how do you ensure your organization will send an impactful social media marketing message, as well as make sure you reach the right people?

Lena J. WeinerLena J. Weiner

Social media marketing plan mistakes you want to avoid -- or else

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is quite true in the world of social media. Many organizations have seen their dreams of hobnobbing and chatting with customers go up in smoke when a well-intentioned action on a social network didn't go over as well as hoped. Some errors are blatant -- a good example of social CRM strategy gone wrong is the Amy's Baking Company debacle in 2013.

Amy's Baking Company is a bakery and pizzeria in Scottsdale, Ariz. Even prior to a much talked about appearance on the show "Kitchen Nightmares," the owners of Amy's Baking Company had a policy of responding in a very defensive and argumentative manner to unfavorable reviews and comments on both their Facebook and Yelp pages. When on "Kitchen Nightmares," Amy, one of the owners, said her restaurant had a problem with "online bullies and haters," and claimed she and her husband and co-owner, Samy, were the only restaurateurs who stood up to them. After the show aired, people who had watched the show Googled the restaurant and found the negative reviews -- and the excessively defensive reactions of the owners. Finding the reactions humorous, people began leaving fake reviews simply to see what kind of a reaction they would get from Amy and Samy, who proceeded to make multiple outrageous posts via social media.

What are the takeaways from this social media meltdown? Handle your social media interactions with care. While Amy's negative attitude didn't help matters much, the lesson here is that it's important to treat customers with respect when interacting with them via social media. Emails, IMs and Facebook messages get forwarded between customers and their friends and family. Yelp, Twitter and Facebook posts are public. When addressing a dissatisfied customer via social media, pretend an angry customer has stomped up to you and loudly addressed you in a crowded public place. How would you respond to them? Would you yell at them, or calmly ask them how you can help make the situation right? Most sensible people would choose the latter option.

Be aware, though, that you do not have to address all the angry people -- there are some people (commonly called "trolls" in Internet parlance) who use the anonymity of the Internet to pick fights and make trouble online. If the angry customer just rants at you despite efforts to make the situation right or makes inflammatory comments, they are likely a troll. A good way to sort trolls out is to ask for some sort of verification that this person exists -- for example, ask them to call your business or send you an email. If they won't comply, they are likely a troll and you should politely stop communicating with them.

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Another mistake to avoid is angrily responding to comments. Let's say you're sitting at your computer and you see an email come in with a very dissatisfied Yelp review. How do you handle it? The best thing at that moment might be to walk away -- at least for a little while. Instead of responding in anger, go through the customer's records and see if you can see why they might be so upset. Take care of a few other things, take a deep breath and go back to the customer's angry message once you've had some time to reflect on the situation and put it in perspective.

Other social media mistakes aren't as obvious. One example is posting identical messages on all of your social media pages. This might not sound so bad, but when customers are seeing the exact same message on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, it feels very canned. You want your social media messages to feel less formal and more organic. Another mistake many fledgling social businesses make is to delete negative comments. By its very nature, social media is not something you can control -- any business owner will get negative comments on their Yelp for Facebook from time to time. Deleting these comments is quite possibly the worst thing a business owner can do, as it shows your customers that you do not care about their feedback.

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