Applebee’s Social Media Nightmare: Technology 24/7 Isn’t Always a Good Thing

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Applebee's is not the first to have a social media meltdown - will the restaurant chain be the last to Tweet, Delete, and Regret? Image by Decoded Science

Applebee’s is not the first to have a social media meltdown – will the restaurant chain be the last to Tweet, Delete, and Regret? Image by Decoded Science

Our round-the-clock culture, enabled by the 24/7 news cycle, the Internet, and a world that never sleeps, presents a whole new challenge to public relations. When it comes to a social media meltdown, such as the one currently being experienced by Applebee’s on Facebook and Twitter, what’s the correct response? Luckily, for those of you who weren’t sure before, there’s now a very clear example of what not to do.

Online All the Time

Not so long ago, businesses had hours before the next news cycle to formulate a response to a poor decision. Now, however, thanks to technology such as the Internet and 24-hour cable news networks, the public demands a response immediately. Businesses must react in a much more fluid manner, and unfortunately, they do not always react appropriately.

Applebee’s Uproar: What Happened?

Applebee’s is the restaurant chain responsible for firing waitress Chelsea Welch when she posted a photo of Pastor Alois Bell’s tip-related bill comments after the Pastor complained. So, what happened next?

  • Customers complained and threatened boycotts on Facebook. 
  • Applebee’s deleted some negative posts.
  • Applebee’s posted a response to the customers.
  • Applebee’s began arguing with customers.
  • Applebee’s deleted some more posts.
  • The arguments moved from Facebook to Twitter.

So what went wrong? In a situation involving social media or the Internet, businesses (and Public Relations representatives, and everyone else) should always remember two things: First, even at 2AM, someone’s always available to read your misguided posts, and Second, the Internet never forgets.

Scrubbing the Web: Why it Doesn’t Work

Although Applebee’s, as the administrator of their official Facebook page and Twitter feed, has the ability to delete anything posted to their page, the damage is done once the comment is made. Whether a business is trying to remove information from their website, from Facebook or from any other social media site, a negative comment, a badly-worded status update, or misinformation can be saved and shared by others in perpetuity. How can you save information from someone else’s page? Check the cached page, and/or take a screenshot.

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