Applebee’s “Social Media Meltdown”

anguyen44    February 11, 2013

A sad tale of employee involvement through social media came when an Applebee’s employee shared with the world a receipt from a customer who wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18”.

receiptWeb Source: NBC News

Applebee’s social media strategy was poorly handled. One source says the “Applebee’s commits ‘social media suicide’”.  The posting went viral through Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter in minutes. Over 10,000 comments were written, mostly negative, that took Applebee’s company image to the dumps. The Applebee’s social media team of four replied to almost all the comments personally trying to demonstrate that they were an organization that allowed their employees to be in control with a humanistic approach. The employee who posted the receipt online was fired.

The team was so over whelmed by the task of trying to keep up with the comments that they finally decided to stop allowing users to post comments. Applebee’s is a perfect example of failure to communicate effectively through social media and of a company approach of allowing their employees to feel in control and handle the fire.

Lessons for Others:
We all want to ensure top quality company brand and it’s important to learn from Applebee’s dilemma how to ensure the success of our own companies. This was a great example of being ‘digitally illiterate’. I applaud Applebee’s for allowing their employees to be active and engaged in their duties, however, companies should have strict policies in place to handle situations like this. A series of educational training sessions for those using and/or in charge of the use of Social Media should be part of the pre-employment regimen.

As William Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University says “You need to have internal policies and procedures on how to handle something like this…If you address the negative comments in a positive way, it’s an opportunity to show people you’re listening. You may actually create a more loyal customer or fan just from engaging with them the right way.”

Web References:
Applebee’s Overnight Social Media Meltdown: A Photo Essay

Applebee’s social media faux pas a ‘learning experience’

Applebee’s waitress canned after posting pastor’s tip

Submitted by: Anna Nguyen – SMBP Student University of Waterloo
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