Are you keeping your social media promises?

Last week, my family and I flew to one of our favorite vacation resorts in Texas.  During our layover I looked at the resort’s Twitter page and noticed that the resort’s marketing director took great care to interact with a local news anchor who was a guest.  I presumed I could do the same.

I tweeted a question about the activities available for kids that night.  No response.  In fact I didn’t get any response until two days after I’d tweeted.  She asked me what had done the night I tweeted, completely oblivious to the fact that I wanted her to give me information to enhance my experience.  She wanted a testimonial when she had completely failed me when I asked for something from her.  What a disappointment.

It reminded me of another story…..

Let Shankman eat steak

The story of Peter Shankman’s airport steak is now legendary.  Shankman (who is a pretty big deal) tweeted to Morton’s Steakhouse that he could really go for a steak, and upon his arrival was greeted by a representative of Morton’s brandishing the steak of legend.

Beyond the publicity that Morton’s received from Shankman’s recounting of the event, there really isn’t any lesson to be gleaned.  Could you or I get a steak at the airport from Morton’s?  Likely not.  So, what exactly is the social promise that Morton’s keeps?  How does Morton’s social presence add value to their customers? I don’t suggest that there is no value, but Peter Shankman’s experience is not indicative of Morton’s social interaction, which is quite sparse so far as their interaction with other users.

Does extraordinary social listening in one singular instance make a company extraordinary in the social space?

Life’s a beach

Back to my resort experience, occupancy was at a seasonal low.  The staff at the resort looked decidedly bored as we walked through the empty hotel.  Yet it took two days for a social response.  Most people probably would have checked in and checked out of the resort in the time that they took to respond.  Yet the impression that they gave by engaging the local reporter was one of real-time social responsiveness.  The reality was that one gatekeeper is the entirety of the resort’s social presence.  Without her, there was no social response.  There were probably two dozen people who could have been easily trained to respond to social media inquiries and weren’t.

What value did the resort’s social presence have to me?  As it turns out very little.  For me, social was an easy way to try and get the lowdown on my visit, but social media channels were the least effective means to contact the resort.

By putting their best face forward for a local reporter, they created a brand promise that they couldn’t keep.  Unlike the Morton’s example, the resources necessary for the resort to manage real-time social channels are evident and available for the cost of a little training.

One other little thing….

I should probably mention that the only other sizable contingent in the resort was a tech conference, complete with their own hashtag and social conversations.  What a missed opportunity for the resort not to interject themselves into the conversations from this conference.

Here’s my big question: would the resort be better served not to have a Twitter account at all?  My feeling is yes.  If you’re not resourced to engage your customers in social media or you provide once-in-a-blue-moon exceptional service to influential people, customers will have an unreasonable expectation of service and be disappointed more often than not.

What do you think?  Do businesses get a pass just for showing up in social media, or do customers expect participation from socially-accessible businesses?

Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • shankman

    8% increase in sales that year for Morton’s from the steak delivery: Promise of revenue to the stockholder.
    18% increase in visits to Morton’s by first-time visitors: Promise of increase in repeat customers.
    $22,000,000 in free publicity: Promise of increase visibility.

    Does everyone get a steak at the airport? No. But to sit there and say “Oh, a company shouldn’t dream big and attempt great things like that because there’s very little promise in it, is short-sighted, at best.

    • Shonali Burke

      Peter, I don’t think Jim is saying a company shouldn’t dream big. He’s saying what happened with you is not the norm, and that if a company is going to get involved in social, they should be prepared to engage & respond. They shouldn’t just do it with the “big” names or “media.” We all know your Morton story was a great story… but what made them great for ME – and I’m not a big name like you (though I enjoyed meeting you so many years ago!) – was that when *I* tweeted them about something, they did engage/respond and even sent me some coupons/certificates… I ended up not using them, but that was a nice thing for them to do. I was impressed with that, and that makes them a winner in my book.
      What do you base the $22M in “free publicity” on, btw?

      • shankman

        Got the $ number from the amount of media they earned (TV, print, etc.,) then used the traditional rule – how much would it cost to advertise in the same outlet?”

        Big names (of which I’m not, come on, don’t give me that crap – I’m just a guy who talks a lot) are beneficial as well as small names. Don’t think of it like that – Think of making every customer happy, just by being one level better than everyone else. That’s all you have to do.

        • Shonali Burke

          Peter, you know you are way more visible than a lot of people, so it’s not “crap,” it’s simply stating the obvious to anyone who keeps tabs on our industry. And while you may talk a lot (you said it!) you’ve earned that visibility, so that was not a dig.

          Re: ad equivalency or AVE – it’s not a good measure of value, and many people in our industry, esp. the measurement thought leaders including Katie Paine, etc., have been trying to get folks to stop using that; in fact, it’s one of the items in the Barcelona Principles. Increases in visits, etc., are much better metrics, though they all have to be customized based on the specific situation of the company/organization.

          • shankman

            Then take out AVE and leave in the massive REVENUE INCREASE they got, and my point still stands.

            OH, and ask ten people outside of our little myopic industry who I am. Not one would know. :)

          • Shonali Burke

            Exactly why I said “anyone who keeps tabs on our industry.: :)

          • jimdougherty

            You’re both rockstars to me. I enjoyed your discussion a lot – thanks again to both of you. I admire you both tremendously!

    • jimdougherty

      Hey Peter – truly honored to have you comment on the post and I certainly don’t mean to demean a very cool encounter that did get them a lot of free press (and still does). The point was simply to illuminate that how they interacted with you was not how I could. I contend that you are a big deal and agree that you talk a lot, but I love it. You tell it like it is. If Morton’s did have that kind of increase in sales and first time visits because they sent you a steak, you should never have to pay for a meal again! Of course the point isn’t to demean “dreaming big” – I don’t think I’ve ever taken a firm position on that but feel comfortable saying I’m in favor of it. The point was to say that how they wowed you was a promotion and isn’t indicative of how they interact in their social channels – and a look at their Twitter feed confirms this. Businesses use social media as an advertising vehicle and think in terms of campaigns and I don’t pass judgment on it, except to point out that by responding to you or to anyone with a certain amount of clout directly and to avoid everyone else is frustrating from a consumer standpoint. Just like that I’ve followed you since HARO and have always appreciated your point of view – so thanks for sharing it on this piece. You’re absolutely correct that ambition is right, but campaigns are short-sighted by definition. Thanks again!

  • Hillerie Camille

    Business, government, mom and pop do not get a pass. It seems like many companies are so afraid to let go of the wheel and let others in the organization drive. When people ask a simple question like, how can I get a job with XZY company, they expect an answer today, not next week. Great post Jim!

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Hillerie! I totally agree – so many people are familiar with social tools it’s almost a travesty not to let them share social responsibilities. I wonder if that will change as tools become more familiar.

  • Martha Giffen

    No, no passes allowed. Social media is called “social” for a reason. If businesses aren’t going to engage, what is the purpose? Just having an online presence isn’t enough any more.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Martha for reading and commenting! I agree with you, but also realize that many businesses do look at social from an advertising perspective. From a consumer perspective I wonder if there is a better way to communicate how to engage with a business?

  • Joe Winpisinger

    Excellent post and one that every business owner should read….

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks, Joe! Appreciate your kind words. Cheers!

      • Joe Winpisinger

        You are very welcome… Keep up the good work.

  • Robert Widdowson

    Great post.
    So, training the right people in your organization should be standard practice. I get it. Maybe you addressed it already, but what about quality control? We’ve all heard the infamous story about the mistweet made by someone at KitchenAid. It makes us cringe. It could happen to any organization. What measures do you put in place to prevent that sort of fiasco from happening?

    • jimdougherty

      Good point Robert. As someone who has managed a lot of people and now has two kids, I believe less and less in our capability to control people’s behavior (at least to a point). I think many of the people that work for us understand how to use these tools and what the community norms are for these platforms. @tedrubin did a great video this week ( where he says your employees are going to make mistakes, but so what? I agree. The reality is that employees want to do a good job, most businesses don’t have the scale of KitchenAid and aren’t as visible, and we take little things in our businesses too seriously. I think people like interacting with genuine people and have always been an advocate for tapping employees as a social resource. That said, it is a risk. Not resourcing your marketing outreach is too. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Sue Neal

    I entirely agree – it’s far worse to raise people’s expectations and then not deliver than not to promise something in the first place.

  • AmyMccTobin

    How many times have you gone to a Business Facebook Page to find the last post was weeks if not months ago? I absolutely agree with your premise; if they won’t use it, don’t set it up. For instance, I turn to Twitter OFTEN for Customer Service (because it WORKS). If you have a Twitter handle and don’t respond, you usually lost me. If you DON’T have a Twitter handle I will call or email. So, if you can’t handle or aren’t set up to respond to the Twitter handle, you’ve now hurt your business by being there and being silent. GREAT POST. Small Biz really needs to listen.

  • Cendrine Marrouat

    Great article, Jim! I think some big businesses get a pass, indeed.

  • Laurence Smith

    Good post Jim, spot on. It really highlights a problem that is common in many businesses – a misunderstanding of social media protocol. They like the icons on their brochures etc. as it makes them seem current, but they really don’t know what those icons stand for, or understand that they can damage their reputation by neglecting to respond to enquiries that come in via these networks.

    In some cases I think this maybe because enquiries coming in from social media sources can be quite random, or even a bit brusque and that might throw off someone who isn’t used to communicating in this manner. No excuses just a thought.

    The point here is, if you sport the icons you have to know why you do.

  • Lara

    I totally agree….no pass. Either have an account and interact consistently or don’t have an account. Just my opinion. Great post Jim!

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Lara for your comment and for reading. Truthfully, I feel like social media can be overwhelming for individual level, so I think people get a pass. Businesses should know better than to start something and not follow through, and I am glad you agree! Cheers!