Getting Social Media Wrong

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On August 9, National Women’s Day was celebrated in South Africa, an annual public holiday that commemorates the 1956 march against pass laws.

For most, it was a day to relax and unwind, and a chance to remember the women of our country. For BIC South Africa, however, it was a day to forget.

To mark the occasion, the stationery manufacturer took to social media and posted this image:

Bic facebook status

Alongside the picture, the words:

  • Look like a girl
  • Act like a lady
  • Think like a man
  • Work like a boss

The backlash on social media was swift. Within an hour, BIC’s social media page was inundated with angry commentators. Unsurprisingly, people were put out by the claim that a woman should look like a girl and think like a man.

In the aftermath, BIC, a brand that should be synonymous with reliable, well-made pens and paper, has had its name besmirched by the gaffe.

The controversy will die down, of course, but there are 3 important lessons we can all learn from the debacle.

1. Screen what you say

Social media can be incredibly beneficial to a company. A lot of great businesses have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed – VavVox included.

But be mindful of what you post. Negative sentiment can arise swiftly, and you should be especially mindful of posting a gendered story that differentiates between men and women. Gender is a hot topic on social media, made worse by the fact that people can’t be sure of the tone behind the message.

To bypass social media gaffes, make sure you think before you post – and have a member of your team/family read what you’re putting out into the world. After all, social media is the world.

2. An apology isn’t always enough

Bic has removed the message and made an effort to show contrition, but that isn’t enough. People are still incredibly dissatisfied with the company.

In fact, dissatisfaction is growing, as this screenshot illustrates:

Mistakes happen, of course, but it’s the way you react to it that counts. Point number 3 is important in this regard.

3. Act, don’t talk

As several social media commentators have pointed out, BIC would fare far better if they dispensed with pithy apologies and actually went out of their way to right the wrongs.

How, exactly? BIC could donate stationery to a girl’s-only school, or help out a women’s welfare organisation, or show contrition by donating money to breast cancer research. Any of these measures would turn the tide in their favour and end the furore over their ill-advised post.

Remember, social media is an excellent marketing tool, but when word-of-mouth turns sour, you need to act decisively to overcome negativity.

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