Just two short weeks ago, Boners BBQ was one of the hottest stories about how NOT to do social media. In fact, I watched it unfold on Facebook. I did a few screen captures of the nasty verbal exchanges and even posted a few of my own thoughts (keeping it clean, of course). I thought this would make a great story to write about and learn from.
And then I thought about every other person who was going to write about it. Some posted that night. Some posted the following day, merely on heresay, as the conversation in question had since been deleted.
If you missed the whole debacle, here’s a quick rundown for you…
1. Customer visits Boners BBQ with her husband and uses a coupon for her meal.
2. Customer pays for dinner and leaves without (allegedly) leaving a tip.
3. Customer writes a full review of the food and service on Yelp.
4. Boners BBQ finds photo online of the customer and posts it on their Facebook page along with rude and nasty personal comments about the customer.
5. Other Boners BBQ fans join in and the personal insults get worse.
6. Facebook users catch wind of the exchange and the story goes viral.
People were horrified. Social Media enthusiasts wrote about it. National news picked it up. And then it went international. From the Huffington Post to the New York Daily. On to Anderson Cooper and ABC News. And finally, the Daily Mail in the UK.
One of my favorite accounts was picked up by ABC News after a local Atlanta station covered it. It’s worth a look just to hear the situation directly from the mouth of the customer and to hear the silver haired news reporter reading the Facebook comments and inserting his own “beeps” for the inappropriate words.
But I chose not to write about it because I wanted to wait. I’ve seen social media controversy come and go. I’m always amazed at this ferocious maelstrom that can occur online in a very short period of time, only to see it disappear just as quickly.
Less than two weeks after the internet unleashed their fury on Boners BBQ, I thought I’d see what’s going on over on their Facebook page.
A Timeline of Disaster and Recovery
1/9/12: Boners BBQ posts a photo of the customer in question with the update:
“NOT WANTED! (Customer name) left waitress 0.00 tip on a $40 tab after she received a Scoutmob discount. If you see this women (sic) in your restaurant tell her to go outside and play hide and go (expletive) yourself! Yelp that (expletive).”
Hundreds of comments ensued on the page along with an endless supply of tweets.
1/10/12: Boners BBQ issues an apology a few hours after the controversy erupted
“Would like to apologize for any inappropriateness on our part.”
99 comments later, it was clear that people felt the issue was half-hearted and a “non-apology.”
1/10/12: Trying to make light of the situation, Boners BBQ posts the following a few hours later:
“Trying to stir up the pot, we lost our lid and spilled the beans…”
17 comments later, only two were negative (with 64 likes)
1/10/12: Realizing that more damage control was necessary, the owner issues a formal apology to the customer in question:
“Dear, (Customer name) – We are truly sorry, it was a bonehead move on our part. But more importantly – it was rude to you and an inappropriate use of social media, which has been a driving force for our business because we can’t afford traditional advertising. We rely on word-of-mouth. Your experience was yours to share and not mine to abuse. Boners BBQ is my passion and my life. Please give me the opportunity to serve you again at our expense- if not please allow me to fully refund your money on me, Sincerely, Andrew Capron.”
129 comments later, people still weren’t entirely forgiving and it showed in the comments.
1/10/12: Boners BBQ tries to bring the issue to some sort of closure with the next update:
“Friends, foes and those who remain undecided…we’ve learned a valuable lesson through this firestorm.
“The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they’ve been in.” ~ Dennis Potter
1/10/12: Bones BBQ pleads with its own supporters who seem to be fueling the fire:
“To our friends on Facebook: we appreciate your support, however let’s stop the name calling…have you not learned your lesson from this firestorm?”
1/11/12: Is it too soon to move on?
“thinks everyone should get back to work like we will be doing today!”
1/12/12: Starting to understand the impact of social media, almost incredulously:
“Story made the news in Iraq yesterday, seriously?!”
1/12/12: With snark fully intact, Boners BBQ proudly displays their ‘A’ rating from the health department:
“surprise health inspection yesterday due to an anonymous caller who said we ran a filthy establishment and should be shutdown…eat this!”
1/13/12: The media attention appears to be wearing thin.
“Kanye West just called and wants his publicity back”
1/14/12: With national television coverage, the publicity train is fully chugging again.
“Has a ♥ on for Anderson Cooper!”
1/14/12: Sounds like the air is clearing and business (new and old) is booming:
“has a ♥ on for family who drove an hour out of there way to come and eat with us last night.”
1/15/12: Even though a full apology has been issued, Boners BBQ is talking about their “cause:”
“Is it us or is Anderson was a lil’ amused and sympathetic to our cause?”
However, not everyone went away. There were still a few comments popping up. Not as hateful as before but definitely thought provoking. One Facebook user wanted to address the issue of responding to the lack of a tip, not a bad review..
“Don’t speak for “all waitresses everywhere.” I’ve had 2 tables in the past month not leave a tip, which is frustrating, but I wouldn’t dream of blasting them on social media. It may or may not have been intentional… but I know that the old saying “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar” is true. Bad press is hurtful to any business… but CREATING that bad press against your own business is just thoughtless!”
And Boners BBQ responded, with the same type of cynicism that got them into the mess in the first place:
“that’s a very true saying, if your in the bee business. Vinegar is really good w/ BBQ pork you should try some.”
1/16/12: When MLK Day rolled around, Boners BBQ posted a quote from King himself. An appropriate gesture given the day:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Martin Luther King Jr”
1/16/12: Later that day:
“is thinking about rights today”
1/16/12: And still later:
“”Your a hardworking man fighting for your dream like Martin we all have a dream”…local customer”
I have to admit that while many of the sentiments that Boners BBQ expresses on their Facebook page is in bad taste, I was a little flabbergasted that they would take the time to compare their efforts to that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom of expression, I suppose.
1/17/12: By this day, most of the undercurrent was completely gone and Boners was publicly thanking their supporters:
“Ty, Budweiser, Lyndsey Marie Rock 100.5, Rock 100.5 | Atlanta’s Rock Station, 640 WGST Atlanta, and Scoutmob for your continued support”
1/18/12: The final icing on the cake was revealed as Boners posted this:
“talk is cheap, international press…priceless!”
There is still innuendo on the page and tasteless remarks. But that wasn’t the point of this post. I don’t think Boners BBQ has true regret for their comments based on the type of engagement they typically have on their page. I think they had regret for the negative publicity they received. However, after a week of damage control, the publicity took a turn and Boners gave the appearance that the press was working in their favor.
My point is to stop and examine what happened. What are the lessons learned? The internet has a powerful voice and when used in unison can raise a tremendous amount of awareness. But what does the awareness do without a call to action? A way to motivate and institute change?
And what are the long term effects of a social media crisis? Obviously, when handled quickly and (somewhat) genuinely while staying true to your voice, you can clearly bounce back. I, however, am glad that I’m not a fan of barbecue in the first place.
Photo credit: julosstock