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Home » News

Barclays scores support, scorn with big Facebook mea culpa

Submitted by on July 9, 2012 – 7:24 am2 Comments

For a long, agonizing week, the Barclays UK Facebook page was overrun by haters incensed that the bank was complicit in rigging Libor interest rates unchecked for four long years. The bank broke its silence on Facebook on Friday with a big apology that was both brave and tardy. It won back a few fans, it appears, but was it enough to silence the critics?

In a pure numbers game, the bank could easily spin Friday’s mea culpa as a victory. Here’s what it had to say:

It was liked 76 times and generated 53 comments, some even positive. The comments ran the gamut from throw-out-the-bums remarks, to the decidedly supportive. One fan wrote, “Can honestly say I’ve never had any problems, there a Good Bank.” It was liked five times.

The real accomplishment is not in how many Likes they scored. The big deal here is that they started the process of asserting their position/their message in this scandal. This is a crucial first step in any crisis: getting your message across forcefully, particularly in the most influential discussion forums. To be sure, it will take a long time for the crisis to blow over (the Wall is still filled with Bollinger barbs, as we reported last week) and to win back people’s trust. But a well crafted apology certainly is an important chess-move to begin the process of regaining control of the channel (the Facebook page) and the message.

What Barclays has realized (a lesson learned under great duress, no doubt) is what few marketers understand about effective social media communications strategy. That is that Facebook + Twitter, et al, are not simply happy channels to post cheery news, contests and give-aways. It is a place to engage your community, in good times and bad. We wrote about this “happy channel myth” in the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy for Carnival, the cruise ship operator. Simply put, to assume your fans are only there for the give-aways and that they do not care much for the other issues facing the brand/company (or, to assume your fan base doesn’t read the newspaper) is delusional and destructive thinking. It’s the kind of mindset that will sabotage your crisis communications messaging.

It’s good to see Barclays’ comms team realize this before it’s too late.

Editor’s Note: Learn from the digital pioneers, brands like Coca-Cola, Carnival Cruises, Whole Foods, Vodafone and scores of others. Their social media blunders – in the areas of crap customer service, plain dumb marketing or simply being caught short in a crisis – provide valuable lessons from which to shape future corporate comms policy. It all can be found in our new e-book, #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One. Buy the book today on Amazon UK, Amazon or on Lulu where you can find it in paperback and epub.

 

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2 Comments »

  • How sincere is this?

    Bernhard, thanks much for this interesting post. Nevertheless, after having read it and going to the Facebook page itself to see and learn I wondered:
    1. What are the chances from this happening again in the near future?
    2. If 1% of your fans liked this mea culpa (i.e. 71 out of 9300 fans):

    — how many disliked it?
    — how many of those liking this post were employees or suppliers having a vested interest?

    The more things change, the more they stay the same (see my link above)

  • Thanks for your comment, Urs… but again, I need to point out what I said up top:

    “The real accomplishment is not in how many Likes they scored. The big deal here is that they started the process of asserting their position/their message in this scandal.” … it’s impossible to defuse a crisis if you are voice-less

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