In my last post, I wrote about the importance of storytelling on social media. One necessary element of any successful story is conflict. Without conflict, stories would be completely boring. Imagine Batman without the Joker. How interesting would the Dark Knight be, strutting around Gotham in his fancy tights and cape with nothing to do but high five policemen? We would walk out of the theater. We like stories about heroes because their road to success is fraught with challenges.

Is your social media story missing its Joker?

It’s understandable that companies want to use social media to portray their success. And it is certainly appropriate to do so. But what company doesn’t make mistakes? It’s not that companies should look to their history, dig up everything they’ve done wrong, and slap it on their Facebook timeline. However, screw-ups provide the opportunity for companies to show that they are human, demonstrate responsibility and showcase their ability to resolve conflicts.

joker

A bad example

One company that missed that opportunity was Lululemon. When customers complained that they had received a batch of unusually sheer yoga pants, the company didn’t own their mistake. Instead, they claimed the customers were at fault for having fat legs. It made the situation much worse, and when the company finally did apologize, it sounded less than sincere.

A good example

A company that handled conflict well was Fontaine Sante Foods, a company based in Montreal. In 2011 they discovered that their packaged salads, which had already been purchased by customers, had been contaminated. This was a potentially crippling problem. Fontaine responded immediately by posting warnings on all their social media sites. In their message they were honest about the problem and wrote a well-articulated description of what they were going to do to make the sure it never happened again. The customers rallied around the brand.

Empathy

One of the purposes of social media is to help potential customers see the human side of a brand. By facing your faults, you expose the company’s vulnerability and can therefore create empathy with readers. You story will seem authentic and honest, rather than forced.

What makes a super hero movie like Batman so great is not just the fact that there is conflict, but that the conflict is overcome by the hero. People know that companies aren’t perfect, so don’t worry if you aren’t. What matters is that you are aware of your problems and can show that you are trying to fix them. You may just find people rallying around your fight.

Jamie Bates