The Grinch that Stole Target’s Social Media Christmas

Target Digital CrisisThe Grinch may be just a fictitious creature, but Target is feeling a little less merry with a recent credit card breech days before Christmas. If the breech isn’t bad enough, the digital crisis brewing on their social media channels would scare anyone into the next Whoville town.

According to a recent Forbes article, buried on Target’s website was a length 1500 word statement about the “unauthorized access to payment card data in U.S. stores.” Unfortunately, Target has tried to downplay the facts that its customers most needed to hear now.

It’s get a bit scarier when you look at Target’s Facebook page with 2,206 responses and counting about what Target is not doing, but limited responses from the company. And if they do respond, it is vague.  During a crisis, limited responses or canned postings from the company on social media is bad. Really bad. Where’s the engagement? Where’s the two way conversation? Folks are concerned and there is not much information beyond the statement on their website and providing some tips.

This is where I see companies go wrong; they are ready to engage in social media when things are good, but scale back during a crisis. Transparency is key in any situation, but more importantly in a digital crisis. Why? Your digital crisis plays out for an entire audience to see not just for your customers.  Since I don’t know the strategy behind Target’s social media, there are a few things for folks to consider if your company runs into digital trouble:

  • Be more transparent. The worst thing you can do is repurpose your statement 5 different ways.
  • Prepared. Edelman has a great post on how company can leverage social media during a crisis.
  • Have a plan. Every company on social media should have a social media response protocol. Make sure your employees know what’s expected of them by providing them a framework.
  • Be ready to implement that plan quickly. Another great nugget from Edelman about having a crisis toolkit.
  • Increase in support. If you have a dedicated team for social, in time of crisis ramp that number up. On the Facebook page, angry customers are posting a lot of comments with limited responses from Target. I imagine because Target social media folks are working with multiple folks to approve statements before posting.
  • Be faster. Social media is in real time. It cannot wait until the next business day. You need to respond quickly, not in days, but in minutes.
  • Afterwards debrief. Figure out lessons learned and improve.

While I am not sure how this will play out in the coming days, I believe Target has an opportunity to wow their customers.  Folks want to interact and voice their opinion. If Target doesn’t respond, metaphorically it will  hang up on thousands of clients virtually for everyone to see. There is still time to turn this around if the company truly understands what social media is about: real people having real conversations.

Rachel DiCaro Metscher  has worked with many organizations to build their communications and marketing programs, including Fannie Mae, American Psychological Association, and The Princeton Review. She is currently working in the DC metro area building content marketing programs from the ground up.


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