After an intense week of social media onslaught, Earls has reversed its decision to source only Certified Humane® meat and cut out Alberta beef in the process. Instead, the company will be working closely with Canadian ranchers and certifiers to supply its kitchens with meat that is humane and local.

A real win-win for both Earls fans and supporters of Canadian farmers.

The triumph of #CanadianBeef advocates is a high-profile reminder of the awesome power of social media but it’s not a straightforward cautionary tale.

So, what can Alberta marketers learn from #BoycottEarls?

Planning ahead

It only took a few days (and over 10,500 tweets united by the hashtag #BoycottEarls) to derail a corporate decision that has been years in the making. If anyone still needed proof that social media is a formidable force, this is it.

ABeefyIssueWhatAlbertaMarketersCanLearnFromBoycottEarls02

ABeefyIssueWhatAlbertaMarketersCanLearnFromBoycottEarls05

I’m betting your company is already active on networking sites, so take-away lesson #1 is to keep the power and potential of social media in mind, especially if you are planning on releasing news that might be controversial.

Before going public, make sure you are prepared for negative backlash. Here’s a summary of Social Media Examiner’s handy guide and some ideas to bear in mind in advance of your next campaign:

  • Think about your words and who might take issue with what you have to say.
  • Discuss how might you address concerns or handle outright criticism.
  • Put a plan in writing and choose a point person who will be responsible for responding to messages.
  • Own your mistake (more on this point below).

Having these discussions ahead of time will help you hit the ground running if a social media campaign does head south.

“The power of social media is that it forces necessary change.” – Erik Qualman, Socialnomics

Consider the timing of & audience for your message

I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to suggest that the Earls announcement was poorly timed. Low oil prices, all-time high unemployment, and the most recent Fort McMurray wildfires are creating some very stressful conditions for many Albertans.

But instead of giving up hope, Albertans are banding together to help each other through these difficult times. From supporting local ranchers to rallying behind victims of the devastating Fort McMurray forest fire, it’s clear people are feeling #albertastrong, and fiercely proud to be Canadian.

Despite low oil prices, rampant unemployment, and the devastating Fort McMurray fires, Albertans are banding together to help each other through these difficult times.

Lesson 2: If you’re in the process of creating a new marketing campaign, now is the time to emphasize local ties, Albertan roots, and basically everything that makes you part of this very special community.

Be prepared for tough times ahead. Other top tips for marketing during a recession include appealing to family values and adjusting your products so they are affordable without being cheap.

Always respond to feedback (especially if it’s negative!)

If you are thinking the lesson here is “run far, far away from social media”, you probably aren’t alone.

But before you panic, let’s look at what Earls really achieved last week.

If you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown social media backlash, act quickly! Own your mistake, apologize if necessary, and do everything you can to make things right.

Yes, they made a poor decision. But they listened to their customers, responded in a measured and reasonable way, and acted quickly to fix their mistake. As this post from Media Miser points out, it looks like the final outcome is going to be better for everyone involved.

Lesson 3: if you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown social media backlash, act quickly! Own your mistake, apologize if necessary, and do everything you can to make things right. If you handle a crisis well, it can turn into an opportunity for nation-wide positive press.

Agree with this article? Got a beef with it? Comment below.

2 thoughts on “A Beefy Issue: What Alberta Marketers Can Learn From #BoycottEarls

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *