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Top Five Things to Learn from the Greggs vs Google Twitter Debacle

Posted By Guest Blogger 17th of October 2014 Social Media 0 Comments

This is a guest contribution from Mark Potter.

Greggs is the UK’s largest bakery chain, famed for its sausage rolls and steak bakes. They have always enjoyed a strong social media presence, winning a Digital Impact Award in 2013 for a ‘Sandwich Maker’ Facebook app.

As a relatively low-budget food chain, they are a popular target for online abuse. As a result, they have already developed a robust strategy for dealing with complaints and controversy:

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Things turned particularly sour in August, when the Google algorithm accidentally replaced the official Greggs logo with a highly offensive fake version. The gaffe spread like wildfire across the internet, and the Greggs Twitter account was rapidly inundated with tweets.

However, the social media team kept their cool, and handled the crisis with aplomb. Almost 300 tweets and a new hashtag later, the correct logo was restored – and Greggs had emerged as a Twitter champion.

Here are some tips on handling a crisis on Twitter, as demonstrated by the social media team at Greggs:

Rise Above It

The whole internet is teeming with trolls, but Twitter is a particularly virile breeding ground. Although many people sympathised with the situation, Greggs was also subjected to a fair amount of abuse.

When Twitter catastrophe strikes, never stray from the Golden Rule – DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. Hitting back with an angry retort can only ever backfire, making a bad situation worse. Make like Greggs by responding in a polite, classy manner – or simply don’t reply at all.

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Crack a Joke

Twitter partly revolves around competitive comedy – the accounts with the funniest tweets often have more followers. Therefore, humour can be one of the best ways to divert a Twitter crisis.

However, before making light of a disaster, you should always use discretion. In some situations, comedy is inappropriate – as many brands soon discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

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Hire an Expert

Twitter disasters are occasionally brought about by the company itself – as with McDonald’s ill-conceived #McDStories. However, as Greggs discovered, crises can also be caused by external forces. These unpredictable situations are perhaps the most dangerous, as many companies don’t have the resources in place to deal with them.

If social media forms a large part of your marketing plan, you should hire a professional social media consultant to manage your online image. As many people noted during the Greggs debacle, they’re worth their weight in gold when disaster strikes.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.49.53 pm

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Ellen’s infamous Oscars selfie is currently the most retweeted message in the history of Twitter. This highlights the importance of imagery on social media. Pictures are far more likely to be shared by followers, and are therefore invaluable to social media marketing campaigns.

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As Greggs demonstrated, pictures can also prove helpful during a disaster. This simple shot cost next to nothing, yet received an incredible 83 retweets and 589 favourites – making it one of the most successful tweets Greggs has ever posted.

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A follow-up tweet, posted when the correct logo had been restored, garnered a similar number of favourites and retweets:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.51.37 pm

Monitor for Mentions

It goes without saying that you should reply to direct questions and comments on Twitter. Throughout the crisis, the official Greggs account was inundated with questions and comments – and each one was met with an appropriate response.

However, not every tweet about the situation was directed at Greggs. The social media team was forced to go a step further, proactively ‘butting in’ to other people’s conversations about the debacle.

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If you have an online presence, sign up for a monitoring service such as Google Analytics or Topsy. These automatically scour the web for brand mentions, notifying you when people are discussing your company online. If you see a comment – whether defamatory or positive – about your business, you will be poised to reply and set the record straight.

No two Twitter debacles are the same. However, by studying the reactions of different companies to their own crises, you will be able to respond effectively when disaster comes knocking at your own door.

This article was written by Mark Potter of Namecheap.com, a leading ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. This was a great post with only two questions… what was the ‘offensive logo’ and where can i see it?!

    With regards the whole site, I’m fairly new to blogging ( its been a little over a week) and I’ve drawn tremendous insight from you.

    Thanks for that!


  2. I’ve mentioned it on your Facebook page, but I’ll go ahead and tell it again here.

    Something similar happened here in India with Amul, a leading dairy brand in the subcontinent. They took it upon themselves to address a customer complaint on social media that had gone viral within just a few days.

    What’s more? They did it calmly with enough scientific proof to win everyone over; or at least the ones who follow them.

  3. Hmn.
    Such a great post here.
    Responding politely to criticisms on social medias and also even going an extra mile by cracking a
    joke out of it is one thing that will always make you top chart.
    I’m kinda a witness of that in so many ways.
    Great post once again.

  4. You gotta stay innovative in your online marketing strategy in order to stay 1 step ahead of haters. We all have them. And, you also gotta learn to stay humble when online abuse happens. Just keep moving forward and think positive. :-)

  5. Nice post Stacey. What I feel better is that this post looks more like a case study. If I were to assign a title to this post without naming any firms, I would have made it like : “Criticism and Digital Marketing – How well you are equipped”.

    You take any criticism from a constructive approach, the positive side of it gets reflected without delay. Criticism is not always surface bound, it can carry a base like it happened in case of Greggs and Google.

    Greggs did not panic and by this time, it had established that relationship, that space with people around twitter. So, when this outbreak happened, Greggs acted as if it knew what its fan following is like.

    When you know what you are doing, the strategy gets built within. You really do not have adopt any new formula or seek ways to fight against odds.

    Learning is improving and learning is success. Nice attitude Greggs!

  6. Great post once again.

  7. Thanks for give special tips on handling a crisis on Twitter, as demonstrated by the social media team at Greggs.I will try to do it…

  8. thanks for your sharing

  9. Awesome way that Greggs dealt with public criticism and Google mistakes. Try to keep your sense of humor in the face of whatever comes at you, and you’ll probably do fine.

  10. Great post!

    They have some smart social media people, I can imagine that 90% of the companies
    would completely flop this test.
    Dont feed the trolls is probably the best strategy to deal with this kind of situation.

    Humour also helps.

  11. Hello Mark,

    Handling a crisis situation with poise and class is increasingly becoming rare. However, blowing a crisis by inappropriate handling may even develop another, far in excess of the initial one and a cycle of unending cycles of unproductive problems!

    There’s a lot to learn from Greggs. I know – I’ve learned a ton personally!

    Be certain to make the day great!


  12. Hey Mark,

    Great stuff from your site. You’ve shared five thing in just two question which is amazing to know about greggs vs google twitter debacle.

    Yes picture plays a vital role as it go viral immediately on social media.

    Once again nice stuff. Thumbs up for you!

  13. Hi Mark,

    Never, ever feed the trolls. Businesses are becoming more skilled each each day at not feeding the trolls. By simply admitting mistakes and owning both social successes and failures in a good-natured manner you’ll be able to easily handle any social fire that needs to be put out. Brands running into problems take themselves too seriously. Either they take offense at the tweet because they see some great truth in it or they want to fight for their name and rep. Fighting creates more fights – see, feeding the trolls – so you’re better off using power not force in such a scenario.

    I like to keep things light. Whether you’re a big chain retailer or a professional blogger criticism will flow your way. Since this is part of the game, why not roll with it? Learn from mistakes, own whatever happens to you and your brand and embrace the experience. Apologize for mistakes. Make jokes about situations that aren’t true disasters. Sometimes, the disaster” word is used way too lightly in the social media game. If people aren’t losing their lives, or if they’re not in grave danger, it’s not a disaster, because folks can bounce back from these types of scenarios.

    Thanks Mark, smart tips. Tweeting from Fiji.


  14. Hi,

    You summed it up all correct. Pictures do speak more and get more retweets. Gregg did the right strategy to respond to all in a very positive manner.

    The epic was the last photo, indeed awesome.

    Nice article. :)

  15. Great Post for Mark ! Thanks. Sorry for my english. Im French !

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