The Facebook page for craft store Hobby Lobby was a dangerous place to venture last week… what a whirlwind week they’ve had!
In case you hadn’t heard about the recent Hobby Lobby controversy, click here for my latest blog post. That should bring you up to speed!
Quite a few things have happened since Wednesday evening when I first blogged about the Great Social Media Meltdown of 2013 (or does that title actually go to Amy’s Baking Company?). It looks pretty obvious that Hobby Lobby got some much better advice on Wednesday, because that’s when they stopped banning users and deleting comments from those who questioned, criticized or teased their alleged anti-Semitic policies. That’s also when Hobby Lobby started responding appropriately to people who questioned them in social media.
Please note, this post is not a defense of Hobby Lobby. Rather, I’m just continuing down the road of what can be done to salvage a social media campaign after a major crisis, and to provide greater understanding of the controversy.
No More Banning and Deleting
First of all, since Wednesday evening, Hobby Lobby has been putting out a lot of fires. After tweeting my own blog post, Hobby Lobby responded, apologizing for the misunderstanding and claiming the content of my previous blog post was not indicative of the company’s philosophy. You’ll see how things played out down below:
So yes, I am officially no longer banned from the page. I hope Hobby Lobby will consider un-banning the rest of the folks who were unfairly banned prior to Wednesday night. Hobby Lobby also reached out to others who had tweeted negative comments. You can read here to find out how their efforts helped defuse the situation a bit.
They also put out a few statements on their Facebook page, beyond their original statement on Wednesday night. First, after spending quite a bit of time responding politely to fans (Jewish or otherwise), they requested some decorum on their timeline:
This was a good start. Shortly thereafter on Friday, I saw this appear…
Again, another step in the right direction. This development was also confirmed in the Huffington Post. You can read Ken Berwitz’s blog (mentioned in the Huffington Post article) right here, about his phone call with Steve Green. Not sure if this will bring back legions of Jewish customers (and those of other religions who are offended by this entire scenario), but it’s definitely an improvement. Now, it’s time for a little poll…
Things finally started to calm down over on the Hobby Lobby FB page, and then… they started playing Whack-a-Mole. Basically, the trolls descended upon their FB timeline to wreak havoc. I spotted some of this myself on Friday afternoon (Warning… some of what you’ll read here is pretty offensive):
For about 10 seconds, I was completely appalled. What was Hobby Lobby thinking, after all the hard work they had been doing to win back hearts and fans? And then I realized… it wasn’t Hobby Lobby. Somebody had set up a Facebook account called “Customer Relations Team”, used the Hobby Lobby logo, and proceeded to respond to comments in completely inflammatory terms. It was actually a pretty clever prank, but had the potential to be highly damaging.
Using my newly reinstated privileges, I went on the offense:
In fact, I sent a tweet to Hobby Lobby on Twitter, warning them about this parody account. They quickly banned this user and deleted the comments. Apparently, Customer Relations Team was the worst offender, but a few other users also came onto the page and claimed to be Hobby Lobby employees, responding to comments in offensive terms. Now THAT is a perfect example of when a Facebook page should use the “delete and ban privileges,” not the nonsense from the previous several days! So now, I want to ask your opinion again…
You Know You’re in Trouble When Seth Rogen Says This…
Following the “Customer Relations Team” debacle, things started to calm down again when Seth Rogen (Hollywood actor and comedian) tweeted:
Wow… while I appreciate clever sarcasm as much as the next person, this one kind of left me flabbergasted. Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby’s social media team didn’t see this and respond right away (you can see this was tweeted at 2:02 am and heck, even Hobby Lobby’s new social team deserves some sleep too). Apparently, Seth really wanted Hobby Lobby to respond, so he tweeted this a little later:
You can see Hobby Lobby’s response to Seth’s tweet above. I certainly don’t blame Seth for being upset with Hobby Lobby and using his well-known sense of humor to make a point. But by this time, Hobby Lobby was beginning to make amends and his tweet seemed slightly out-of-place.
Is Hobby Lobby really Anti-Semitic?
The question that bothers so many is whether the statements of 2 employees in the New Jersey store reflected their own personal backward opinions, or a more systemic, disturbing philosophy promulgated at Hobby Lobby. Having never worked there, I certainly can’t answer this question. Like many who have shopped at Hobby Lobby, I’ve gone there only to find the store was closed (and always is) on Sundays, due to religious reasons.
Since my recent blog post, I’ve done research and there’s no doubt… this IS is a Christian business (scroll down to the bottom of this article to learn more), and religion is definitely part of the company’s ethos. But that (along with not selling Hanukkah decorations) does not make a company anti-Semitic. It does, however, make a company more vulnerable to such accusations, fair or not.
Apparently, the Green family has been exceedingly philanthropic to the Jewish community, long before this accusation of bigotry came about. This controversy must be very hurtful to the Greens, both personally and financially.
Nonetheless, what bothers me most is the fact that two (not just one) employees made anti-Semitic comments in the New Jersey store. If just one person made anti-Semitic comments, then I think we could all say, “yeah, one idiot doesn’t speak for the whole company.” It became more troubling when Ken Berwitz spoke to the store manager and heard these ideas stated again. Much as I want to believe Hobby Lobby just got caught up in something really hateful, I have to wonder why any person, working in a position of authority at Hobby Lobby, would say something like that without some direction from the company? I’d love an explanation from that person as to why he said that. THAT issue is more disturbing than whether they sell paper dreidels or electric menorahs.
Look, that’s the thought processes of one person (me), and clearly the Anti-Defamation League has accepted the apology of Hobby Lobby and they are in a better position to judge the situation than myself. So, last poll of the day…
The fact is the fury will die down, just as it did for Chick-Fil-A, Paula Deen and yes, even Amy’s Baking Company. Hobby Lobby, this too shall pass. In the meantime, I appreciate your being fodder for an excellent social media case study on “what not to do in a social media crisis.”