You probably know I’m obsessed with reality shows that focus on entrepreneurship and social media lessons. They’re such great crisis comm studies, especially for the unfortunate small biz folks who come off so very, very badly. So, this summer I’ve been following, tweeting, and exploring fandom’s wild webs…and how networks interact with those fans and generate viewer input and loyalty. (Scroll down for what I learned, by the numbers; first, more about the psychology and sociology about connections..)
It’s quite a convo, not even counting #Bachelorette shrieks. Oh, yeah…there are lots of failed Shark Tank pitches, but I’m talking about direct fan/network chats with networks live-tweeting fans who catch every flub. Spoilers: Swag possibilities, scroll to the end.
History: Remember Amy’s Baking Company’s maelstrom on Kitchen Nightmares? Billed as the first time Gordon Ramsey walked away, it was also one of the most noticed times a small biz tried to fight back against social media trolls. A disaster.
The summer of ’16 arrived with my latest case study: CNBC Prime, which is striking gold with variations of the Shark Tank model. (Trust me, the investors of newcomers #AdventureCapitalists and #Cleveland Hustles make Mr. Wonderful look like your tweed-jacket philosophy professor.)
FIRST rule of crisis communication: Be prepared. TheProfitCNBC has it going on. Constant tweets by staff and @MarcusLemonis enforce a strong message with humor. This includes Lemonis sometimes pushing back with NSFW rhetoric that further endears the fans. His break-it-down-for-the-rest-of-us graphics don’t hurt, either. (These strategies are even stronger with newcomer #AdventureCapitalists.)
SECOND: Respond immediately. And meaningfully. Think 240Sweet on The Profit, when Alexis and Sam seemingly stiff Lemonis for a tidy sum and exploited a cancer survivor. Even poor Cindy became meme material when, it turned out, she DID need a job. Things went from sweet to sour quickly. Lesson: Every time your episode airs, you’ll wake up to new trolls, so start off right with prepared, immediate responses and apologize. (The CEO of Farrell’s, for instance, came off stronger despite massive failings.And, when you know you’ll be on national television, don’t stiff people in the first place. The choice, like so many marshmallow flavors, is yours.
THIRD Be honest. Every eye roll, every finger point, every lie or blame game will be caught. People are watching and Tweeting, in real time. Moral of the story: If you’re going on a reality show, especially the hour-long personality feature that shines light everywhere, be prepared for the effect you reflect. For example, the dastardly damsels of 240sweet presented a false message of stronger values than they exhibited. In contrast, Akron Honey declined an offer during Cleveland Hustles, which was framed as a mark of integrity rather than a brush-off. Again, the choice is yours. At the same time, if you’re a host/investor promising to live-tweet during the airing, do so…two or three weird interjections don’t count.
FOURTH: Be realistic. When the owner of The Mule pitched his $999 backpack to the #AdventureCapitalists, it took awhile for him to disclose that he’s only sold 10 over 30 years. Yet it took him seconds to reject any advice or even investment from guru @Dhani Jones. In contrast, the Nube Hammock Shelter pivoted enough to stick to their brand and win the investment.
MORAL: Don’t be a 240sweet, with the taste of onions emanating from your dessert product. Speaking of desserts, be the CEO from Farrells, Mike Fleming, who admitted shortcomings, took tough love, and continues to boost his brand plus that of @MarcusLemonis and
In addition to seeing patterns in how featured businesses use social media, I also wanted to gauge how@,
@TheProfitCNBC, and @ClevelandCNBC interact with public tweets to embrace the new shows and develop new fan bases. Why I chose to study CNBC: Mid-August was a week of debuts for CNBC, with the fourth season of The Profit sandwiched between newcomers Cleveland Hustles and Adventure Capitalists.
- Quick facts: On average, I tweeted 16 times per each 60-minute show for four weeks. While I occasionally liked another post or something by CNBC, my content was purely reactionary to show events, a passive stance not ideal for businesses who hope for true conversations and endorsements.
- Dates of study: First tweet: Aug. 22 (first episode of #Adventure Capitalists); Last tweet: Sept. 19, when the show didn’t show up on Monday night (and was only questioned by 3 others.
- NEW SHOW INVESTOR and @CNBCPrimeTV engagement: Adventure Capitalists frequently liked and retweeted my tweets, two of the three primary investors interacted with fans in real time, but consistency seemed shaky with only four episodes and a poorly planned conclusion that left viewers uncertain. Cleveland Hustles offered more value to fans, following me me before the show began, with one investor liking my tweets and the host frequently engaged. This was also a longer show with more traction, building to finale engagement.
- RETURNING SHOW INVESTOR and @CNBCPrimeTV engagement: In contrast, The Profit returned at an all time peak of interest from viewers looking for a fresher Shark Tank-type experience and a fan base of thousands already tweeting directly to investor/host @MarcusLemonis. This was harder to crack into as a new fan and I went to real-life extremes, even visiting and tweeting pictures of a Farrell’s restaurant (supported by Lemonis in the first episode). Interesting study of a small biz befoe their episode aired: I’d even contacted the Farrell’s Director of Marketing asking if I could support their efforts, with no response; however, the CEO (Mike Fleming) followed me and has kept up an enthusiastic, engaging conversation with fans.