Professionalism in the Face of an Angry Facebook Mob

 

Once a year, we run a Facebook Contest for a local wedding venue. The prize – a wedding package valued at just over $2,500. For obvious reasons the contest is always a huge success, but it definitely comes with its challenges. Have you seen the hit reality TV show Bridezilla? How about Say Yes to the Dress? In all honesty, anything related to weddings involving brides will bring out the very best in people.

 

Handling social media situations when they go terribly wrong is an art form. The entire nation realized this when Amy’s Baking Company Baker Boutique and Bistro made national headlines with the Most Epic Brand Meltdown on Facebook Ever. How you handle tricky situations such as mob mentality on Facebook and negative feedback says a whole lot about what your brand stands for, and who you are as a person. Where Amy’s Baking Company went horribly wrong, Val Vista Lakes went wonderfully right. Here’s a lesson in what to do when the crowd turns on you.

 

1. Rock the Contest: In any Facebook marketing campaign, the first step is to rock it. Go big or go home, right? This particular wedding contest was promoted via content marketing, Facebook status updates, and targeted advertising.

 

  • Content: A series of blogs were created with the sole purpose of driving local traffic to the Facebook contest.

facebook contest

facebook contest

facebook contest

  • Organic Facebook Marketing: Before the launch of this wedding contest, we promoted with enthusiastic status updates. We also notified all of our preferred vendors as well as local wedding websites and magazines.
  • Facebook Advertising: With a limited budget, we targeted our advertising to local residents who would be more interested in utilizing our wedding venue.

facebook advertising

 

2. Post the Rules, and Again, and Again: The second step to any successful Facebook contest is to be absolutely transparent with the rules. Post them on the contest landing page, your website, the official rules page, and in status updates to remind everyone who has entered and who is voting.

 

3. Follow the Rules: Facebook has a strict set of rules for running a contest. As a business owner or social media strategist, it is your responsibility to not only understand those rules, but to make sure your audience understands those rules as well.  (Rules such as using a 3rd party app, Likes do not count as contest entries, Likes cannot count as votes, no promotion through Like Exchange groups, etc)

 

4. Monitor Constantly:  For a contest with such a huge prize and such a passionate audience, one of the most important elements is monitoring – monitoring nearly 24 hours a day until the contest is complete. Monitor who has entered, who has voted, who has shared the contest, and everything in between.

 

5. Enforce the Rules with Transparency and Positivity: Here’s where it starts to get tricky. The rules must be enforced to the best of your abilities. By utilizing step four and monitoring the contest 24/7, you’ll no doubt notice a few rule breakers. This brings us to the core of our story…

 

The Rule Breakers

Nearly everyone who enters a Facebook contest, especially a photo contest like the one we managed for this wedding venue, will try to cheat. Bridezillas are no joke, and they will do everything and anything to win a free wedding. So, in this case, the cheating strategy of choice was buying and exchanging Likes, an action that we made absolutely clear was not only against Facebook policies, but against the rules of the game.

 

Like Exchange Groups – Included in Facebook Platform Policy is a line that states “…must not facilitate or participate in any like exchange program.” And anyone invested in social media marketing is well aware of Facebook’s crack down on “fraudulent Likes” in August and September of 2012.

(https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-security/improvements-to-our-site-integrity-systems/10151005934870766)

 

Like Exchange Groups (Like 4 Like. Like & Publicity Exchange, etc) are created for the sole purpose of promoting an individual, or business page’s, need for Votes or Likes. In many cases, these groups require payment to either enter the group, or participate in the program, and are chalked full of those ‘fraudulent’ profiles. As a social media strategist and manager of this particular Facebook contest, it was my intention to avoid these groups at all costs.

 

Warning

Since we monitor all contestants and their Votes 24/7, we knew that many of them were breaking the rules and engaging in these practices. So, we sent out a few warnings to allow those who broke the rules to leave the dark side and return to the rules of the game. We remained positive and enthusiastic, but laid down the law.

 

facebook contest

 

facebook contest

 

 

The Final Decision

Upon decision day, we had to disqualify three contestants, including those who were in first and second place, for continuing to utilize these practices. We collected the evidence with screenshots and CSV files, and provided that evidence to the disqualified contestants so as to avoid any confusion. Another aspect of a successful Facebook contest combined with transparency is covering your own @$$.

 

The Uproar

And then it happened – the bridezillas showed their true colors, as did hundreds of their friends.

 

facebook contest

 

Initially, we graciously responded to the inquiries and attacks with a lot of “thank you’s” and positive energy. All profanity or harassing comments were immediately deleted and those users were banned from our Facebook Page.

 

Instead of this:

facebook contest

 

We did this:

facebook contest

 

Instead of this:

facebook contest

 

We did this:

facebook contest

 

Notice a difference in approach? Over the course of three days, spilling over slightly into four, we were on top of every single comment, post and message to this Facebook Page. We responded within minutes and deleted within seconds.

 

Cheaters Never Prosper

One of the disqualified contestants took to starting a new Facebook page to solicit donations for their wedding, since we had “wronged” them by disqualifying them. We found this page within minutes of it’s launch, reported it, and contacted them directly with requirements to remove all language slandering our business. Within 24 hours, that problem was resolved and since that time their page has been stagnate.

 

Within that same time period we also flagged and removed negative Yelp reviewed from contestants cheaters. Yelp, surprisingly, acted fairly quickly (it only took four reports and a personal email), and removed the negative reviews within 72 hours.

 

Contest Success

What could have easily led to another Arizona epic Facebook meltdown ended up in a very successful, effective campaign. This little Gilbert wedding venue picked up over 2,000 Fans in just over two weeks, increased engagement and Reach by over 100%, and now has a Friends of Fans number over 1 million!