wildfox-instagram-epicfailSocial media is a blessing and a curse; a blessing because in the digital age it only takes a click of a button to let your voice be heard in cyberspace with inevitable shock waves in real life, whether you have 100 or 100,000 followers/friends on social media. What took letters, numerous phone calls and much frustration now can take 140 characters – literally, as my last 24 hours on Instagram and Twitter will prove. A curse, on the other hand, because, individuals or companies that do fail to formulate a thorough social media etiquette and strategy will inevitably fail in reputation management in an age when, whether we like it or not, reputations precariously balance on the edge of a click, and we cannot afford to bury our heads in cyber sand and hope trouble will go away, as my last 24 hours on Instagram and Twitter will prove. Last night, going through the latest edition of Grazia Magazine, I came across a cute sweatshirt for  which I would not mind parting with my £99.95. However, upon closer inspection, I found a huge (by grammar geek standards, that is) error I found hard to ignore and felt most of us keen on good English would not wish to sport on our slogan sweatshirt. So much like with all else I find intriguing, engaging or amusing, I took to Instagram and shared the above picture with #sinspotted and the caption: “Let’s play Spot the Mistake. Would have bought this @wildfoxcoutureuk sweatshirt in a heartbeat but I’m averse to bad spelling. #grammargeek #sinspotted in Grazia.” It was all in good faith and hence the reason I tagged the company in the picture. Following much amusement with friends commenting on the image and of course the spelling mistake, including my husband dropping by and asking @wildfoxcoutureuk to explain the error, lo and behond, within 15 minutes, we found we were blocked off the Wildfox Couture UK Instagram. I had been following their feed for months and really loved their products, hence I felt outraged by their instant knee jerk reaction. Here was a company which, instead of taking it on the chin and accepting the criticism, got defensive and chose to block a fan and bury their heads in cyber sand. I then shared the following with the caption: “#nameandshame so tonight I spotted a spelling error on a @wildfoxcoutureuk (see previous post) – a fashion store I’ve been a fan of and followed for a while only to find I am now blocked for calling them out on it. As a magazine editor and publicity consultant I find this not only bad manners but also very awful pr and social media management. So so disappointed in how they handled this. At the expense of being blocked again I am copying in @wildfoxcouture #hownottotreatfans #hownottorunsocialmedia” Not content #namingandshaming only on Twitter, I followed up by tweeting at both @wildfoxuk and @wildfoxcouture on Twitter with the link to the above image, asking both to explain blocking a loyal fan in the face of criticism. 15 hours later, with still no response from either account but keen to get an explanation and apology, I went back on Twitter:

To be honest, at the stage, I was really hoping that either Wildfox or Wildfox UK would rise to the occasion and somehow redeem themselves from this social media fail. With that, I decided to give them another chance:

Within minutes, Wildfox UK, perhaps realising, this was one disgruntled fan who would not go away, decided to respond:

However, as you can imagine I was not about to be fobbed off with an email address and a sloppy little ‘x’ at the end of their tweet (Professional social media conduct was sobbing uncontrollably into its Twitter feed at this stage!). Plus, having visited their website in search of a phone number, I already had the email address so this was hardly helpful coupled with the fact that I had no faith in getting a sensible response – or come to think of it any sort of response at all. After all, I was blocked by the same person now tweeting me a kiss! Upon asking for a number, I got the following:

Really? Another kiss and a smile. Cute. Not. This was when I decided to take my gloves off and sharpen my proverbial pen – and tongue – to write an open letter to Wildfox UK. Fortunately or unfortunately for the person hiding behind their Twitter profile, before I got around to writing my response and sharing it on social media, with bells and whistles on, all the way from Los Angeles, the voice of reason finally uttered a tweet:

While I do truly appreciate this apology from Wildfox’s US account, we are yet to see if I will be unblocked by Wildfox UK on Instagram. And even when I am unblocked this whole experience has left an unsavoury impression of a label I used to love. Will I ever want to buy anything else from Wildfox? Probably not. As for the wider lesson, speaking with my PR cap on, I cannot begin to emphasise the importance of ensuring your brands and its social voice are in the hands of a PR professional who knows how to manage a crisis, no matter how big or small. The real life equivalent of blocking a fan on social media over their criticism is sticking your fingers in your ears while shouting “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” If you cannot imagine yourself doing that in front of a customer/fan/friend, you should never ever dream of doing it on social platforms. Wildfox is not going to lose their 50,000+ followers on their Twitter feed, and judging by the snail speed of their response, they are not likely to lose any sleep either, and so be it. However, even one fan lost is a fan gained by a rival brand and one that will speak as loud as it gets on the bad manners they showed on social media. Beyond bad manners, in this day and age, where social is ever more connected to real, taking chances with your reputation, online or off, is simply bad business.

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