When I saw the furore around Protein World's 'Are You Beach Body Ready?' advert my first reaction was to take to Twitter to see what people were saying.
The conversation started with consumers expressing disgust at the advert content. So Protein World jumped to Crisis Manage the situation, right? Oh no.
Before the Advertising Watchdog got their act together and banned the advert in its current form Protein World succeeded, step by step, to tick off every item on the 'things brands must never do on social media' list.
Here are the 11 Social Media lessons we're pretty sure Protein World skipped:
1. Lip service is no longer good enough.
Customers have always been at the centre of a brand - but in the past many companies have paid lip service to ‘customer service’ and 'putting the customer first'.
But as the line between digital and traditional marketing ebbs away brand's are beginning to realise they can't ignore customer demands for a central seat.
2. Today's consumers are not content as passive receivers
They will not be preached at by billboard ads. They expect to be part of brand conversations and decisions.
When a disgruntled Tweet sent from a gloomy bedroom in Surrey is as - or more - powerful than an official company press release, brands can no longer afford to ignore the power of social media.
3. Social media has given your customers a powerful voice
This voice holds the power to to give or take value from your business. Ignore it at your peril.
If a company sells a faulty product today’s customer won’t write a quiet letter of complaint - they will tweet their complaint and within 30 seconds 10,000 people might be talking about it, sharing it, and chipping in with their own personal negative experiences of the company.
4. Invest in understanding your customers
When customers hold this kind of power your have little choice but to invest in your customers; try to understand them, listen to them, adapt business practices to deliver the things they want and need, respond adequately to concerns - perceived concerns - and complaints.
In short, if you have not already given your customers prime seats at the heart of your brand machine, you are facing a very slippery slope.
5. Take advantage of your customers new-found voice
Think of Social media like a game. If you refuse to play you lose by default. Brands who want to stay competitive in today's market cannot afford to refuse to take part.
If you do play well your brand will make big gains from the powerful voice that social media has vested in your consumers.
6. Build a strong online community
By investing in a strong online brand community you are opening a window onto valuable customer insights into product development, marketing, initiatives, company performance, brand perceptions and culture, customer service and new market opportunities.
7. Find a good Community Manager
Once a brand has built up an online community the brand becomes Captain of the ship. You, the brand, can steer the ship - but you can't stop customers from jumping overboard, and you can't stop complaints about the quality of last night's buffet.
But the power of being Captain lies in your ability to Listen and respond.
Listen to what your customers are saying. Treat analytics reports like your first born child. They are the keys to your customers' minds.
Once you start listening you will get a strong idea of the kind of content, adverts and advertorials that will sit well with your consumers.
9. Ingrain social listening and the value of your online community into your brand ethos.
Give Community Managers the power to consult with all departments to share and act of the results of their listening.
Respond to unsatisfied customers swiftly, listen to their complaints and learn from them to prevent them being repeated.
If Protein World had done a bit of social listening that advert would have been smothered when it landed on the Community Manager's desk.
10. Create brand advocates
By engaging with your customers online, you create brand-customer relationships that build advocacy, trust, and loyalty—and that in turn enhances the value of your brand.
With customers at the centre of your company your business has the ability to deliver a meaningful and relevant brand message.
Strong vibrant and happy online brand communities can and will amplify the value of your brand. Sit back as your loyal online community spreads your brand message for you and grows in numbers.
11. Not all press is good press when it comes to social media.
Business Insider UK reports that Protein World made £1 million in the four days that followed the #BeachBodyReady social media backlash. That's a phenomenal profit for a fairly new brand.
But an online community is a vital part of the multilayered process that helps brand's today achieve successful growth.
Has #BeachBodyReady bought Protein World a 'loyal' community who will spread future powerful word-of-mouth campaigns on their behalf? We're not optimistic.
Twitter user Katherine Horgan sums up @ProteinWorld's new fan base nicely: