When corporate social media gets anti-social

So many big companies still don't get social media. It's not enough just to be on Facebook and Twitter, you need to be a part of the communities there. Why is that so hard to understand?

Case in point: Romano's Macaroni Grill. I love this restaurant and even though the two locations nearest me closed, I still organize a road trip every now and then to get my fix of Fettuccine Alfredo. Quite awhile ago, I signed up for their newsletter and it gives me an occasional coupon or birthday freebie. Good stuff. Today, I received an email from them, promoting their new dishes and, for the first time, I noticed the Twitter and Facebook icons with the words "Join the Conversation". Ok, I'm game. I'll join.

Surely, you can imagine my disappointment when the last tweet that Macaroni Grill sent out was six weeks ago and the last Facebook wall post was also six weeks prior. Six weeks!

How many tweets have gone unanswered in six weeks? How many irate customers were ignored or happy customers weren't thanked? How many things could Macaroni Grill have promoted and didn't?


I offer my social media consulting services for a pretty penny, but I'll give Macaroni Grill this bit of advice for free. Don't open social media accounts and then forget about them. Don't miss out on the daily opportunities you have to interact with your customers and show them you appreciate them!

Ok, Macaroni Grill seems to answer some of their fans' wall posts on Facebook, but not much. As a matter of fact, one customer posted a complaint about his dining experience and went on to say that no one responded when he submitted feedback via the official Macaroni Grill website. Not good.

Whether you use social media for your business or just yourself, you're only as good as your last tweet, wall post, or blog entry. Don't be complacent. Always prioritize your customers, clients, contacts, or community. If you don't steer the conversation, someone else will. And, you might not like the direction it heads.

Is there a restaurant or retail shop you think is doing a good job with their Facebook or Twitter accounts? How about a company that's blowing it big time? Surely, and sadly, Macaroni Grill isn't the only one dropping the ball on the social media stuff.


  1. You're welcome Amber.

    I agree completely that the philosophy remains the same and it should, customer service is critical!

  2. A- I'm with you! At least they were ON FB...

  3. Thanks for weighing in, Katie.

    I don't think anyone is shouting anyone else down. However, your analogy about being kids that develop at different speeds is probably pretty accurate.

    Although the tools may be evolving, the philosophy remains the same. Appreciate your customers. Treat them like they matter. Keep them happy. And, it's easier to keep an existing customer than it is to recruit a new customer.

    Social media actually makes that easier than it used to be in many ways. Although it does give customers the platform to call out bad service, too. But, yes, you're totally right. It will, indeed, be interesting to see where we go from here.

    Thanks for chiming in, Katie!

  4. Well said Amber!

    Here is my take on things:

    First I agree for a company/brand as big as Macaroni Grill to leave their accounts unattended for 6 weeks is a waste and a detriment to their brand.

    Second we all have to remember there are early adopters and late adopters to technology as well as social media. This is precisely where the clash happens. For early adopters doing a good job of managing social media accounts truly is a "no-brainer" while the late adopters are still either afraid, uneducated or as Todd Lyden said below they won't do anything until the MUST step up to the plate.

    Let's look at the great debate of "ROI of social media". Those who are purely numbers driven people are hesitant to believe in social media because it is tough to quantify. On the flip side for those who are (dare I say it?) "warm and fuzzy" the ROI is quite clear and is quantified by the good reputation they earn by engaging their customers and providing good customer service.
    Everybody likes to say these are the people and/or companies that "get it" and I don't disagree they "get it" or at the very least they have someone working for them who does :)

    We all need to put on our seat belts this is continues to be a fast ride, it will be interesting to see where we go from here.

    At the end of the day we need to remember social media as it exists now is growing and changing at an insanely fast pace and we are all learning as we go. So like children we all grow and develop at different rates and in the meantime we are all going to bump into each other and try to shout each other down.

  5. It all goes back to the power of the people, doesn't it? Stay silent? Nothing. Demand something? You see a change.

    You saw my comment below, right? There is just no way after six weeks that they just happened to choose today to send a tweet, make a FB wall post, and answer the disgruntled guy I mentioned. I'm gulliable, but that's no coincidence.

  6. A- I think this is one of things that until they are start feeling it either through a post or something more impactful, most are not going to jump into the water.
    They will do the minimum until they MUST step to the plate.

  7. I swear, someone must have sent my post to Macaroni Grill. Neither of their accounts have been touched since January 1 and both were updated today. Coincidence? Hard to believe.

    I think they must have seen this story through a Google Alert. Seriously. If so, good for them for setting up an alert. But a really smart marketer would have commented on this post.

    The power of social media and John Q. Public, folks! In action! Right here! ;-)

  8. Great story, Andrew! Don't 'cha love that?

    I had a similar experience with Disqus when it came to a glitch in my blog commenting. @disqushelp answered my tweet that was directed at no one. They obviously look for issues and then respond. Good service.

    It's crazy that so many big time companies are still in the dark ages on this stuff. "What? You want me to talk WITH customers? We don't do that; we talk AT customers!" How last century!

    Thanks again for sharing your experience with GoDaddy.com. Nice to hear of a company that's really maximizing Twitter!

  9. I do have one interesting anecdote. One day when a bunch of GoDaddy blogs were getting hacked with malicious code (including one of mine) I expressed my frustration on Twitter. If I had put in a support ticket on their website it would have taken about 24 hours, but within 5 minutes a representative responded to my tweet and got rid of the problem right away. GoDaddy certainly attracts its share of controversy as a company, but they're definitely "getting" how to play the social media game. I just checked out their Twitter stream and it's flooded with @replies and answers to questions. I was really impressed with the way they got back to me and fixed my blog even though I hadn't used a username or hashtag.

    I think your point about confusion over marketing vs. customer service is spot on. I feel like a lot of businesses are still uneasy with the idea that these "official" accounts should contain two-way conversations, believing that talking directly with customers in this type of public forum is unprofessional and inappropriate and could somehow lead to problems. But the benefits that would come with just a bit more education are staggering!

    They certainly don't recognize how starting and then abandoning Twitter and FB accounts is killing their brand.

  10. No apology necessary. I LOVE a good rant! ;-)

    Those are great examples, Steven. Thanks so much for sharing the details with us. You really provide great insight into the highs and lows of this stuff.

    Frankly, I think some companies are still confused over whether social media is marketing or customer service. Unfortunately, I think this manifests itself in a megaphone mentality that utilizes monologues instead of dialogues. Crazy.

    As for the "what are you doing this weekend" status update, I hate that stuff too! So weak, unless, of course, you have a business that ties into activities, events, etc. But, I gotta say users answer that nonsense so they're just as guilty as the simpleton who posts it.

    On the nonprofit front, I hear ya! Great tools that are out there for free! I do lots of pro bono work and try to get some of my favorite charities going on these sites, but I can tell they won't keep it going once I leave so I don't waste my time.

    It's really unfortunate because I know the power of social media. However, as you've experienced, if no one owns it at the organization, it will go unattended. Such a waste.

    Thanks again for chiming in with your great examples, Steven ;-)

  11. I was just thinking about this the other day.

    Recently I had some package delivery problems with UPS so I decided to go on Twitter to ask for assistance. They have dedicated people on Twitter just to answer enquiries, I thought this is pretty advanced. However, their responses didn't meet my expectations, they avoided answering issues and I ended up writing a blog post and associated tweet with my poor experiences with them. Even though they seemed engaged on social media they didn't want to resolve the difficulty. Upon doing some research I found many people had blogged about similar experiences they had with the same issue. It certainly is good to have a social media strategy but if the company isn't engaged with it properly then it can seriously backfire.

    This week I connected with Shaw, a cable provider here in Canada, to ask them a question over Twitter. They were really helpful, had the right "business friendly" tone (not patronizing), they thanked me for raising the issue and resolved it quickly. From a customer perspective it was a pleasant and positive experience, which is how that company responds through other customer service mediums and why I am pleased to chose them over their competitors.

    Another example is Weetabix. They are also very engaged with social media and improving. However, they often put up Facebook posts which ask "what are you all doing this weekend". I feel my relationship with this company is to find out how I can get the best from their product, get recipes, hear about new products and ask them product questions. I don't really want them to know what I am doing this weekend, its irrelevant.

    I helped a non-profit set up a social media strategy, they had everything in place and things looked great. However, they haven't posted one message on Twitter, I was extremely disappointed. Upon monitoring their mentions I see many followers asking questions of the organization, however, they haven't answered. They probably haven't even logged into their account since I left them in May last year. They have 2 Facebook pages and their engagement on their is similar too. Social media can be such an important and exciting tool for charities and once you get into a routine its pretty easy stuff!

    Sorry to rant!!!

  12. Wow..there are so many...and the most unfortunate examples I have are of non-profits who don't engage with their Twitter Follwers...I have had too many of those types of experiences and if I weren't such a persistent optimist I could totally be discouraged by the lack of engagement....

    I could however give you a great recent example that happened by accident...Being out of work, just two days before the Super Bowl, I came across a job with a Major Auto Co. as a Social Media Manager. Naturally, the first thing I did was do a search on Twitter. I came up with a sponsored Tweet followed by some sporadic tweets...which I noted were not well executed. It just so happened that I watched the Super Bowl this year so of course while I was watching...I was tweeting also..not a lot...but I was on to watch this feed for this company....which was not the actual plan but with Tweetdeck we know that the feed stays until you make it go away....

    There were 2 ads during the Super Bowl that generated quite a bit of twitter buzz for said car co......and there was no one to engage these people....one ad was for a different company that everyone attributed to "my" car company and then the other ad actually dissed "my" car company and so many people were tweeting in support.....the earliest responses came on Monday morning and never even really addressed either of these 2 issues...just so weird....I need to be paid to do that job...and I hope I get a call. : )

    Have I told you today just how much I love your blog?

  13. I've done work with nonprofits, so I understand the challenge you bring up. Many are eager to learn, but implementation can sometimes be very slow as priorities are on programs and not promotion. A vicious cycle.

    Your example is a perfect example of missed opportunities. On the flip side, I'll share a good example.

    I watch the show Undercover Boss which profiles company CEOs. Many companies, not all, but most, will send a tweet saying they're on the show. However, none engage people during the show. That is except Direct TV.

    When I tweeted about the show, they answered back. They followed me and were paying attention during the broadcast. Very impressed with their level of engagement. Again, this is the only company out of a dozen big ones profiled on the show that I've seen do this.

    As for the job, you go get 'em! You obviously get it and they'd be lucky to have you! Go! Go! Go!

    And thank you so very much for the compliment, Rachel. I truly appreciate it. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment ;-)


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