01 February 2013

Applebee's and a Catch-22 of social media marketing

What happened to Applebee's on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit last week has been described with many metaphors: "implosion," "meltdown," "disaster" and others.

I liken it to the Battle of Little Bighorn that cost General Custer his life in 1876. However, Applebee's isn't going to "die," and the company is not a victim of its own hubris like Custer. But the "action" on the Facebook page may resemble the final hour of Custer's life: Thousands of current and former waiters "circling" the normally bland/cheerful corporate page, furiously pumping arrows and spears into every new post the company made in an attempt to explain its actions during the last week of January.

Slate coverage:
When Applebee’s tried to impose an automatic 18 percent tip last week on the bill of Atlanta pastor Alois Bell, she crossed it out, reduced the tip to zero, and added the note, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” A waitress posted the receipt online, earning Bell nationwide derision and the server a pink slip for violating Bell’s “right to privacy,” according to Applebee’s. Over the weekend, the restaurant chain suffered an avalanche of criticism. [Note: I neglected to include "avalanche" in my list of metaphors!]