Case study: Target’s need for social listening

Case study: Target’s need for social listening

One of 2015’s biggest viral hits was the fake customer service representative from Target. But how did it develop into one of our most shared stories?

In a statement, Target announced that they would start phasing out gender-specific signage in some areas of their stores. This angered a lot of people, and in just a couple of minutes after the statement had gone out to the public – posts started to flood Target’s Facebook page.

After seeing the posts on Target’s Facebook, user Mike Melgaard decided to set up a fake Facebook profile posing as a customer service rep from Target. His name was AskForHelp and he used the Target logo as his profile image.

And here’s where the fun begins. Melgaard decides to start commenting on posts from the angered customers:

Mike Melgaard shows the importance of social listening Target’s double-edged lesson in customer service with Mike Melgaard Target’s social media debacle gives new meaning to asking for help Target learns brand reputation lessons with social media

It takes 16 hours until Melgaard’s account is shut down by Facebook, and he’s replied to over 50 comments by this time. Each one of these comments has been mistaken as an official reply from Target’s customer service department. From a brand perspective, scary, huh?

This shows the importance of having a social media monitoring tool, so you can quickly observe and react to things like this.

Luckily, Melgaard’s replies were quite well received and it never went into full crisis mode. Target could even enjoy a sizable chunk of media coverage, garnering some nice marketing results that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

But imagine if Melgaard’s intentions would have been more vicious. The damage a fake account can do is enough to ruin a company’s reputation. And that’s why social listening has never been more vital – so you can keep tabs on your brand at all times. As the replies were posted as comments on Target’s Facebook page, it would be easy to detect them if they’d been monitored!

Target released a statement later during the day, saying that they had no connection with Mike Melgaard.

“At Target, we are committed to providing outstanding guest service to our guests wherever we engage with them—in our stores, online, or on our social pages. Clearly this individual was not speaking on behalf of Target. […]”

They also posted this pic on their Facebook page. And who got the most liked comment? Mike Melgaard himself.

Target gets their social media back under *controll* (see what we did there?)

The picture has been analysed as a nod to the prankster, and maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t. However, it garnered Target even more attention – making what could have been a crisis into a nice marketing move.


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