Earlier this week, I came across a controversy playing out on the official Instagram page of an influential company, wherein a horde of social media users were accusing it of apparently ripping off a F&B concept built by a homegrown local F&B startup. As I went through the comments, I found out that the crux of the issue was that the latter company had spent two years planning, refining and launching its concept, only to have the aforementioned conglomerate later come along, essentially copy the idea, and then announce it as its latest new enterprise- yeah, you should now be able to see why there was so much outrage in response to that particular Instagram post.
At the time of writing this note, it has been four days since the controversial Instagram post came out, and there were now a flood of comments on it- but I couldn’t see a response from the company who had posted it in the first place. Now, this is the part I found perplexing- after all, the whole point of a company having a social media presence is to allow for interaction with its customers, and this is especially important when they are complaining about something or the other. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to have replies to such comments happen instantaneously, but the fact that, in the aforementioned case, it’s been four days and the original poster has yet to make a response doesn’t bode well for its brand perception in the market at large.
At the moment, this radio silence can be perceived as everything from sheer laziness to utter callousness-all of which are characteristics that your brand should definitely not want to be associated with. But such a concern seems to elude most brands, big and small, in this region- there seems to be a tendency wherein companies here, when faced with a crisis or complaint on social media, prefer to, kind of, stick their heads in the sand, and, sort of, wish the problem away. It’s a pity that this continues to be a norm of sorts, as I believe that the smarter (and perhaps easier) route to take in these kind of situations is to start by simply acknowledging the issue- you don’t even need to agree with the complaint, just show that you are a brand that is, at the very least, attentive and listening.
Once you have done this, take the time out to get your people together, and decide your position on the matter of dispute. Putting this together might take a while, and that’s perfectly okay- as long as you have recognized the issue in the first place. Just don’t go the silent treatment route- it doesn’t do your brand any favors at all. At the same time, this particular issue has also brought to the fore the relatively unaddressed topic of the importance of startups and SMEs protecting their intellectual property- if you are building a business of your own, rest assured that it’s worth the effort to have complete ownership of all your IP assets in writing.
At the same time, make sure you have a plan in place in terms of your recourse if your IP has been compromised- don’t simply bet on appealing to the goodwill of people, instead have a strategy crafted and in place, should such a situation arise. Taking the time out to do this in the initial stages of your business may seem unnecessary or unwarranted- but then again, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. If you want to stack the cards in your business’ favor, start with the basics- after all, some of the world’s most remarkable entrepreneurs succeeded due to foresight, plain and simple.