Companies in the UAE have slowly but surely embraced social media.
Many firms initially resisted social networks hoping they were just a fad, but following the Arab Spring, when networks like Facebook and Twitter became catalysts to mobilise protests in the region, local companies sat up and took notice.
Communicating via social networks is now becoming a key component of every firm’s marketing strategy. But while seemingly easy, tools like Twitter and Facebook can prove to become PR disasters if not handled correctly.
Car dealer Subaru Emirates learnt this lesson the hard way.
Following a recent road accident in Dubai that claimed four lives, the company posted a message on Facebook entitled “Woman driver at it again” alongside an image of the accident.
The post instantly garnered furious comments, with Facebook users accusing the writer – and in turn the company – of being sexist and insensitive.
It took 26 hours for the company to finally take down the post and apologise, but the damage was done.
The incident has sparked off a series of articles on how not to manage your social media and the brand’s reputation was seriously tarnished. Some Facebook commentators even swore never to buy a Subaru, hurting the company’s business along with its image.
Another UAE-based firm that recently fell prey to a social media debacle was telecoms operator du.
The company suddenly announced automatic upgrades and fee hikes for its internet, phone and TV packages, predictably generating questions and confusion from customers on Twitter.
But when a du employee responded to one such question tweeting: “Hey! if (sic) you don’t want to continue with the services, you can cancel your account at one of our stores,” it unleashed a severe backlash from customers.
Although du’s reaction was swift – it removed the tweet and publicly apologised, the brand’s image was already tarnished.
With social media starting to take centre-stage in shaping brand identity, local companies must carve out effective social media strategies to avoid such catastrophes.