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Chick-fil-a has become a social media lighting rod this past week after several public anti-gay marriage statements have emerged from their President and other company representatives.
The conservative brand places a lot of value on their Christian beliefs.
The company is opposed to gay marriage and these recently publicized comments have erupted into several online PR issues for the brand.
One of the more recent snafus was one or more fake Facebook profiles that are actively defending the brand in social media conversations. Many have assumed Chick-fil-a created the accounts.
Clearing Up Chick-fil-a Accusations
Social Fresh recently confirmed from official Chick-fil-a representatives that these clearly fake profiles have nothing to do with Chick-fil-a. “They [fake Facebook profiles] were not created by the company and were not approved by anyone at Chick-fil-a.”
Chick-fil-a has also been accused of recalling a set of Jim Henson toys, as a petty response after the Jim Henson company publicly posted to Facebook that they were ending their relationship with Chick-fil-a over their anti-gay marriage comments.
It appears that Chick-fil-a, a company that has long supported anti-gay marriage causes, has wandered into a hornet’s nest of bad PR on this issue.
With the negative attention Chick-fil-a has created with recent public comments, these stories take on a life of their own very quickly. Absent from much of this has been quick and clear communication from Chick-fil-a themselves. They have tried to clear up some of the stories through their Facebook page. But any Facebook post quickly becomes a rowdy and sometimes hateful debate on the political issue of gay rights, rather than an opportunity for the brand to clear the air.
Did Chick-fil-a create fake Facebook profiles to help clear their name? No. Was it a fan or even rogue employee? Maybe, even probably. Chick-fil-a has a huge passionate fan base.
Was the recall of Chick-fil-a toys from the Jim Henson company a petty response to the Henson Facebook dig? This is unclear. Chick-fil-a stands by the fact that these toys might be dangerous, and backing that up a bit, the Jim Henson company, when asked to comment by the Huffington Post, said they “had no further statement” and “that those inquiring about what happened with the toys should contact Chick-fil-a.”
If the recall were not real, I think the Jim Henson company, who clearly has no relationship to protect, would defend a product that had their name on it.
And yet the timing for Chick-fil-a has been extremely bad.
Brands are choosing to more publicly support or oppose political issues these days. And with the rise of social media, the public’s response can be instant and very loud. Oreo recently came out (so to speak) on the other side of this very issue by posting a custom image in support of gay pride on their Facebook page.
A Social Company Slow To Respond
Chick-fil-a has been very successful with social media marketing with a Facebook fan base of over 5 million. They have a very engaged audience online and have been able to drive people into their stores with creative social media coupon campaigns several times.
So how does a company that is so successful at social become the victim of so many social media crisis scenarios in one week?
It comes down to politics and response.
We can debate whether or not companies like Chick-fil-a or Oreo should be publicly supporting and funding political causes. But the bigger social media marketing issue here is that IF you do decide to jump into the political ring, you better be prepared for the aftermath.
Chick-fil-a became a lightning rod for an issue that many are passionate about, for or against. But it feels like they were completely unprepared for the social media response that followed.
If they did not create these Facebook profiles, a little more than a Facebook update might have done more for dissuading the fast spreading rumor.
If the toy recall was real, and just bad timing. They might have been better off getting ahead of the story and asking all stores to just not mention the situation. It was not easy to predict how badly they would look.
Chick-fil-a is good at social media. Or at least social media campaigns. But the conservative company has been slow to respond to a series of social media ruts.