business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

"Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

For a timely assessment of the social media domino effect, we turn to Domino’s.

The giant pizza chain unintentionally made headlines twice this month, with a Facebook flub and a political fish feud. Both occurrences offer object lessons on how to deal with social media realities.

Domino's, of course, is a company with some history when it comes to the internet. Back in 2009, when two employees posted a prank video that involved mucous, pizza prep and eventual felony charges, Domino’s was criticized for its slow response to a real-time public relations crisis. (The company's first response was to ban all cameras from its stores. Had it been smart, it would have tried to engender transparency and trust by encouraging people to bring their cameras. These days, however, Domino's gets high marks for its innovative social media strategies from in places like the Mintel Social Media Trends report.

The flub I referred to above occurred on Domino’s Facebook page, when customer Jeaneth Manzaniita Tavares of Mexico posted a picture of her pizza and added "Best Pizza Ever! Keep up the good work guys!"

To which a member of Domino’s social media team responded "So sorry about that! Please share some additional information with us … so we can have this addressed."

Oops.

The Facebook post went viral, followed by social and mainstream media critiques, snarky headlines and allegations that Domino’s has computers – not humans – automatically responding to Facebook posts.

It ain’t so, said Dominos, adding that the employee thought the pizza didn’t look up to its usual standards when she apologized and hit send before reading the words. The follow-up comment was "No, we meant we were sorry it took Jeaneth so long to enjoy the best pizza ever.”

That explanation seems a little convoluted and not terribly convincing, but what I find noteworthy is Domino’s said, hey, the employee made a human mistake, everyone has learned from it and it is time to move on. This is what you've got to say in this situation, and you've got to say it quickly.

Domino’s took it one smart step further, posting online a photo of its six-member “customer care team” and a pledge that going forward each response will include a “signature” from the author. Establishing a personal connection will clearly generate a closer link with the consumer, even a disgruntled one complaining about the taste or timing of their pizza delivery.

Smart.

The more tongue-in-cheek fish issue was sparked by a new “Powered by Pizza” ad campaign touting pizza – not halibut - as the food that fuels world-changing innovators working late into the night. It even shows an actor spitting out a piece of fish.

Firing back was Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich, asking Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle why he was “hatin’ on halibut.” This being American politics, he was photographed sending Doyle a sample of “this staple in Alaskans’ diet and the bedrock of Alaska’s coastal economies” to educate the pizza honcho’s “uninformed palate.”

Domino’s apologized, and Doyle tweeted back a photo wearing an “I (heart) Halibut” polo shirt saying “usually it's pizza for Friday lunch. Today, Alaskan Halibut. It's 'ofishal' - I love it!"

Clearly a mix of political correctness and bad puns, but effective. Because in the social media environment, it is critical that you move fast, move surely, and always have a sense of humor.

Comments? Send me an email at kate@mnb.grocerywebsite.com .
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