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Companies caught in Alan Jones crossfire highlight key social media lessons

Patrick Stafford /

p>The storm surrounding businesses that advertised on Alan Jones’ now ad-free radio show serves as an excellent lesson for SMEs in how to deal with social media backlash.


The warning from experts comes after Jones has made yet another attack on the social media campaign designed to cripple his show, saying it amounts to “cyber bullying”.


The controversy shows the sway social media campaigns can have over business decisions and how SMEs can become wrapped up in controversies they seemingly have nothing to do with.


While advertisers included Mercedes Benz, ING and McDonald’s, several SMEs also advertised on the show. A Sydney bottleshop was the target of hundreds of email messages from angry customers trying to get Jones off the air.


The “Destroy the Joint” campaign has used social media to target specific businesses in order to achieve its aim – a move SR7 managing director James Griffin says is now more popular than ever, given social media’s widening reach.


“Social media doesn’t care whether it’s a small business or a large business involved in this,” he says.


“Consumers don’t care. If you own a small business, then you certainly shouldn’t think this won’t happen to you.”


This is only the latest incident involving a business and social media backlash. SmartCompany has covered several instances of businesses coming up against customers online – Coles has been stung by campaigns going awry, while customers protesting Cotton On have loudly taken their complaints online before.


Moving protests to social media can ensure a wider audience and more rapid response from the company in question, Griffin says. He warns businesses need to be prepared.


“The first thing to consider is that social media doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he says. “These campaigns happen as a consequence of other things in the marketplace, and that’s evidenced by what’s happened with Alan Jones.”


“Businesses were just going about their business, and then all of a sudden there was this huge stampede online. Historically, you could quarantine your operations into different segments. Not so much anymore.”


The risk can be mitigated by making sure you monitor your page every day, Griffin says, or at least introduce a tool that will monitor it for you.


Finally, Griffin says you need to address the situation, as quickly as possible.


“There is a protocol, or at least some steps that you can take to deal with negative commentary. And that can simply mean addressing the people in the first place.”


“Say you’ve heard them, you’re going to work something out, and that you’re investigating. That goes a long way, and can satisfy people that they’ve been heard.”


This is only the latest incident of a business having to deal with backlash on social media. Last year, Video Ezy suffered a massive backlash following an incident involving Austereo radio host Kyle Sandilands.


Meanwhile, SmartCompany brand blogger Michel Hogan says we can all learn a thing or three about Alan Jones and personal brand in her blog today.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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