Talk with an Advisor
Talk with an Advisor

4 min read

A Lesson in Social Media Marketing

 It’s not always easy for businesses managing social media accounts. For the most part, followers are great people with a serious interest in the services or products that the businesses that they follow promote. Sometimes though, it all goes horribly wrong and we see what is now commonly referred to as a ‘fail’, often with hilarious results – or cringe worthy.

Last week, UK bakery Greggs found itself on the wrong end of an internet prank (or possibly it was malicious) when its Google Places listing appeared with an altered logo. The alteration wasn’t a positive reflection on the business, but one that someone, somewhere obviously thought was a pretty good laugh. Underneath the logo itself, embedded in the image, new text had been added which read “serving s*** to scum for 70 years.”


Greggs social media win

Ouch, slightly embarrassing for the business.

It’s seems likely that the image was added by a member of the public and came from a wiki that shouldn’t really be regarded as a ‘trusted source’.

Followers Take to Twitter

When these things happen, often the company in question simply goes into hiding until the furore dies down. Either that or a very poor attempt is made at deflecting the inevitable jeers until it’s taken down. However, Greggs’ social media team took a different approach which ended up being a lesson in how to deal with a potential PR disaster on social media.

The result was actually quite hilarious and extremely well done, you really have to take your hat off to the team for getting it so right.


First up was a plea to GoogleUK on Twitter – this featured a nice big tray of doughnuts and the promise that they would be with the Google team once they had sorted it out. This in itself was a great way to respond to something that essentially said that not only are Greggs’ products poor, but also that the customers who buy baked good there are too.

GoogleUK responded equally well, with an image of Homer and the quip that they would get it done ASAP if Greggs were to throw in a sausage roll. Of course, it didn’t take long for followers to get further involved and before Greggs could say ‘awesome amount of free advertising’, the story had spread like wildfire.


Approach with Humour

How the Greggs team managed to get it so right was the constant humorous replies that they sent to followers who had stumbling across the story. The result was a lot of admiration for the social media team that dealt with the story all day. They did so with a large dollop of laughter – at the predicament they were in and themselves – and plenty of style.


And of course, the team made sure that it used a hashtag #FixGreggs so that people connect more easily and see what others were saying. When the issue was finally fixed, the tweets kept on pouring in with an amended hashtag, #FixedGreggs.

Businesses can learn a lot from the story, it’s common enough now to see hostile remarks from companies that feel the need to defend their position and absolutely don’t see the funny side. In fact, personally I’ve seen business owners get extremely angry with people online and actually insult them.

This is of course never going to end well. Business owners that take the defensive position are often those that they go on to wonder why they’re losing customers, followers and their reputation.

Laughter gains Engagement

The use of humour is a good trick. Not only does it ensure that the business isn’t insulting customers at all, it gains better engagement because it acts on one of our favourite emotions. Funny internet memes have long been known to gain better engagement than other types of posts because they have high emotional appeal.


This brings us to the science of going viral. It’s been known for some times and there have been several studies on what makes a post on social go viral. Anything that provokes an emotional response can do this, but if it’s a positive response then all the better. Whilst videos and posts that make us angry can also go viral, as a species we prefer to laugh.

For Greggs, the business may have not made it viral worldwide, but it generated a lot of attention in the UK and since the bakery has shops scattered around the whole country, it can surely only be a positive thing. It’s already a pretty popular national institution, with more of the bakeries in the UK than there are McDonalds.

The company had a difficult 2013 that saw it rebranding slightly in 2014, selling more healthy snacks and “better coffee”. The redirection has proved to be a success and the company has seen sales improve again this year. However, it’s likely that following its social media success story, Greggs will see a further rise in popularity.

Rules for Social Media

It’s a lesson to us all. Approach with humour, not caution. Laugh along with your followers and appreciate the ones that attempt to let you know when something goes wrong. The response from Greggs led to a huge outpouring of admiration and appreciation from the online community and the kind of exposure that a company such as that could only dream of.

Some basic rules for dealing with an online crisis:

  • Reach the right person to get it sorted quickly – so if it’s a customer complaint, then ensure that you respond to them in a timely and polite manner. If it’s another company and service that you need to take down offending material, then ensure you get a timescale where possible and are kept in the loop at all times.
  • We’ve all come across internet trolls and for the most part, the rest of the net simply ignores them. However, it’s not unusual for followers to become brand advocates and to defend the company that’s being attacked. Be polite to trolls, don’t be tempted to be as vile as they can and it’s highly likely that your loyal followers will do the job for you and get rid of them. You can of course block and delete, and you should in some circumstance, but often people are interested in how you will behave in certain scenarios, so don’t be afraid to leave it there unless it’s offensive to others.
  • Put up as much information as you can so that your fans know what’s going on. Again, it’s likely that they will spread the word and effectively help you to deal with it.
  • Don’t copy and paste the same answer to all followers that ask a question. One of the best things about the Greggs example is that all followers who engaged with them got a personal reply.
  • Use images, now that Twitter especially allows you to do this, you can use it to your advantage and gain further engagement as well as get noticed more easily.

Many brands are getting in right on social now but some do still make mistakes. Sometimes these are funny and other times they provoke anger – both of these emotions are more likely to make us share, but as mentioned earlier, you can’t beat funny.

Greggs provided an excellent example of how to turn a potential disaster into a win-win situation and will in turn undoubtedly see a rise in profits.

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