Four Ways to Waste Your Social Media Budget

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There are lots of companies out there that use social media in smart ways. They listen to their customers. They respond appropriately. They take this feedback into consideration and then they refine their message.

Too many companies, however, use social media as a megaphone, not a conversation tool. I ran into one on Friday.

Papa John’s is a Case Study for Everything You Can Do Wrong

Over the weekend, my husband did what a lot of people do on Friday night: he ordered a pizza and popped in a movie for my kids to watch.

Papa John’s was offering us a free pizza. It was all part of an elaborate Super Bowl marketing campaign. They offered a free pizza to anyone that guessed the coin toss correctly. I’m not a huge fan of their pizza but they had a chance to convert me. Never one to turn down free food, we took the bait. A few days later the promo code for the free pizza showed up in my husband’s email inbox. All we had to do was pay the delivery fee of $2.50. Problem was, the Pepsi showed up but not the pizza.

We called the store and they told us they didn’t have the order. We were given a 1-800 number and asked to give them the confirmation number for the order and the $2.50 delivery fee. After 15 minutes on hold (all of which peppered with my kids screaming, “Where’s the pizza?!” every 45 seconds), we were told there must have been some “glitch” and we could place the order again. When asked if they could waive the second $2.50 delivery fee, we were told no. We could go online to a different page and file a complaint. Does the complaint stop my kids from whining? That answer would also be no.

This is when I turned to Facebook:

facebook Papa Johns post

Was this out of line? They thought so. It was deleted in less than an hour.


Luckily, I still had Twitter. At first, I was civil:

Papa Johns - First Tweet

Then the kids whining really got to me. This is where I’m not so nice:

Papa Johns - Maybe This Was Mean

By Monday, I still hadn’t heard from them. After mentioning the complaint again, and five of my friends re-Tweeting it, I got their attention:

Final Word With Papa Johns

Using my experience with Papa John’s, here are four ways you know you’re wasting your social media budget:

1. You don’t have a 360 plan

For all the millions of dollars invested on in-store promos, direct mailers, email and most expensive of all, Super Bowl ads, Papa John’s should have been prepared for this. They obviously never asked the question, “What happens if someone has a problem?” They had to be prepared for millions, if not tens of millions, of orders for these free pizzas (after all, more than 100 million people watched the Super Bowl). More than a few orders will go wrong. To leave the franchise stores without any recourse other than “I don’t know. Call corporate” is irresponsible and a huge waste of everyone’s time and money.

2. You can’t respond in a reasonable amount of time

Presumably, this is one of their busiest nights of the week and when they would see most of the conversations happening. They’re going to get complaints and praise. They should be prepared for both. Social media is an immediate forum. Some time passing is acceptable, but three days? I doubt they would have talked to me at all if I hadn’t brought it up again.

3. You want to live in a bubble

Papa John’s should not have deleted my Facebook post. What they should do is accept that every customer will not always be happy and use the opportunity to have a dialogue with the customer and find out how they can do their jobs better. Putting your hands over your ears and closing your eyes is not a strategy and it does not mean that people stop talking about you.

As a promising note to this story, I also Tweeted Domino’s on Friday, hoping maybe they could end my children’s suffering. They responded immediately and although they said they couldn’t offer me a free pizza, they did send me a link to where I can offer up suggestions about how they can provide better service. Kudos to Domino’s.

4. Your answer is “That’s not my problem”

Deal with the issue where it happens. You wouldn’t tell the people answering phone at local stores to tell the customer to go online to place an order. Why do essentially the same thing on Twitter? I was complaining that my only option to try and remedy the situation was to file a complaint. So they responded and told me what I needed to do was file a complaint. They weren’t listening. They just wanted me to go away.

When I looked through past Papa John’s Facebook and Twitter posts, they were all upbeat and self-promotional. Some were things like, “Who’s ready for the weekend?” That’s fine, but it shouldn’t be the only conversation.

Real conversations are about more than small talk. The real value of social media is not that it can be used as a megaphone for advertising and public relations, but that it gives honest customer feedback and allows companies to listen and refine their message, listen and refine. If Facebook and Twitter are only a mouthpiece for other brand messages, don’t bother.

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