If you work in social media, you’ve seen it. The Facebook post that held the potential to decimate the PureGym brand with a single, distasteful sentence. Yesterday, social media kicked up a storm following a themed workout that could only be described as the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
“Slavery is hard, and so is this.”
Apparently, as long as they’re contentious enough, it takes only 7 words to destroy your brand.
That’s what *almost* happened anyway on Monday, as a PureGym branch took to Facebook to announce their new workout regime: the “12 Years Of Slave”.
I even cringe writing it.
It was released in line with Black History Month. “Apt”, they thought… Well, they couldn’t have thought more wrong.
Naturally, it was only a matter of time before public opinion came to a boil. Most people, understandably, were outraged on social media. At best, this was an abhorrent misjudgement. At the worst, it was so racist and tone-deaf that the PureGym brand ought to be finished altogether.
After a good 24 hours of solid brand-bashing, it seems the dust has settled a little and we’ve found ourselves on middle ground. Many are still disgusted in the serious bad taste of the PureGym Luton & Dunstable branch, but most are now coming around to the fact that this was likely a standalone incident, and that the content certainly isn’t universally representative of the PureGym brand. This was strengthened following PureGym’s statement this morning, which I can pick little fault with. They made no attempt to cover their backs or justify. “We apologise unreservedly” was how it began…
PureGym undoubtedly now have their own issues to work through. Do they close the branch? How do they show that they’re sorry, but keep their overall brand integrity isn’t permanently damaged? That’s something that far exceeds recommendations I could ever put forward on this blog. Speaking candidly and honestly, I don’t know the answer – and I can’t imagine it’s going to be an easy decision to make either way.
What I did want to talk about, and what this whole debacle shows, is how incredibly, incredibly important it is to have a coherent and well-communicated social strategy. Plus, why you just can’t treat social media as a side project in any business nowadays.
Why A Universal Strategy Is Important
The logistics of having almost 300 gyms to manage social media for must be impossible to work out. It simply would not be feasible to have one universal account that answers for all 294 PureGym branches. Therefore, the system of having dedicated accounts for each gym, run by people who work within those gyms, on paper seems like a good idea.
I don’t disagree that it can work, and work well.
In fact, having regionalised social media accounts seems like a great idea. It means each branch can promote specific offers, and target their audience based on the demographics of that area. All in all, I’m all for it. I think one thing that is SO important though, is having brand guidelines that all accounts should be following. Also, having a team dedicated to checking through content before it goes out seems an arduous task, but this fiasco has shown that it’s really, really worth it.
Social media accounts for brands by region/branch should be consistent and coherent, but also specific. They should have the same guidelines (down to graphics and even capitalisation – as I’m a stickler for that), and most importantly they should all know what they can and can’t say. A lot of it is common sense, though. Which brings me to my next point: making sure that your social media manager is a safe pair of hands, who cares about getting it right.
Social Media Is Not A Side Job
Often, social media comes second, third even fourth on the priority list for branch managers. It shouldn’t. Social media is an invaluable string to your marketing, which does the important job of protecting your brand and maintaining your reputation, as well as having the potential to bring in revenue of course.
Too many times I hear stories of social media being passed around and forgotten about. The unwanted task. When managers and employees are busy handling their own responsibilities, social media management can become a burden and as such, it’s not given the due care and attention it requires. It’s important, however, that this doesn’t happen; and I really hope more businesses learn from PureGym’s mistakes and realise this. Pretty much every business will need some degree of social media management, whether that’s freelance or agency support, or simply learning the art yourself. If you’re a small business in particular, you don’t need the kind of skillset you’ll find in managers who dedicate all of their time to social media. I don’t think anyone would expect that. But, it does pay to have basic skills in communication, photography and knowing what makes good content. There are loads of courses you can take online, some of them are even free.
For many businesses now, not having social media is simply not an option. There are a few well-known brands who’ve bid farewell to their platforms such as Wetherspoons and Lush, but they’ve come under criticism for this, with people stating that they’re simply avoiding communicating with their stakeholders. After spending years working in social media, I have come to agree. Any good business will have a number of communication channels open. Plus, with social media, not only can you allow people to communicate with you, but you can communicate with them too. It’s perfect.
In short, it’s likely your business is going to need a social media presence. What’s more, it shouldn’t be disregarded as a mundane task that’s handed to the unwilling. PureGym Luton & Dunstable have already shown what can happen when you don’t think through your content – you risk damaging not only your own branch, but the whole business.
On the other side of the argument, not having social media at all also leaves you open to criticism. That being said, I think it’s much better to not say anything at all, rather than say the wrong thing.
With this in mind, I’ll say it once more for those at the back. Social media is not, and should never be treated as, a side job. It’s wholly important to any modern-day business. Invest in it, and mistakes like this won’t happen.
Let me know your thoughts, you know I love to hear them. You can reach me on the comments below, or send me a tweet.