Gay Marriage, Chicken Sandwiches, and Social Media Disasters

By Ricky DeMaio

You’ve probably heard by now about Chick-fil-A’s recent social media scandal. If you haven’t, allow me to summarize for you:
Chick-fil-A was being blasted publicly for the company’s (and CEO’s) stance against gay marriage (which they’ve never really denied before).  Jim Henson Company even ended their partnership with the fast food chain. As a response, Chick-fil-A claimed the puppet kids’ meals toys were “unsafe” for children, which is why they would no longer be served.  When users questioned this, Chick-fil-A was caught creating fake Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of defending themselves.  An official spokesperson has denied this allegation, but the evidence seems pretty stacked:
  • The account’s only activity was defending Chick-fil-A
  • The account was created just hours before doing so
  • The account’s profile picture was quickly found as a stock photo on Shutterstock.com
  • The account was then deleted

Sound unnecessarily complicated? Yeah, it is.  Whether or not “Abby Farle” was the ghost of Chick-fil-A past, or a community manager puppet account, I’m definitely questioning Chick-fil-A’s handling of the situation.  Their efforts to fight back against their detractors only fueled the flame war on, so much so that their Facebook wall became little more than a battlefield between “liberal commies” and “hateful bigots.”   Clearly their community managers are working overtime now, because all negative comments are being deleted (and the users are being banned from their page).

At Likeable, we stress transparency.  CFA has never hidden or denied the fact that they donate to organizations that try to “cure” homosexuality.  Why did they start now? Personally, I don’t agree with their opinion, but I suppose they have a right to it. And while they could never really prevent the slew of hate tweets and negative comments on their Facebook wall that they’re enduring (or ignoring), they could have at the very least held their head up and saved themselves a LOT of embarrassment.  Instead of just dealing with news stories about their convictions (which they apparently aren’t even brave enough to stand by) now they have to fend off press about how they can’t handle this PR nightmare professionally.

Pinterest hoaxes about “Moonmelon” notwithstanding, it’s very difficult to pull one over on social media. People will follow your digital trail. You’ll be caught. And you’ll be embarrassed.

How do you think Chick-fil-A should have handled this situation?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

PS – I have never actually eaten at Chick-fil-A so I cannot comment on the quality of their chicken. Only their social practices. 

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  • http://twitter.com/bobbymetzinger Bobby Metzinger

    This is all speculation. Was Brian Ross of ABC News your college advisor? 

  • Evan Watkins

    While yes this is all speculation, and the PR reps at Chick-Fil-A have denied this. The evidence is stacked pretty squarely against them. And the fact that they waited hours to issue a statement instead of addressing the controversy right away does nothing to further their case. 

    We could also mention that they told the public that Muppet toys had been recalled  after Henson had already cancelled their contract is also suspect. Their PR team is just digging themselves into a hole they are going to have a tough time digging out of. I guess we didn’t learn anything from the epic PR fail of PayPal. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurenfairbanks Lauren Fairbanks

    @twitter-18199879:disqus What about this blog post is pure speculation? The fact that the Jim Henson Company ended their partnership with Chick-Fil-A? Or the fact that fake accounts with stock photo images were created and then deleted? 

    Aside from that, this blog post makes an important point about companies’ social media efforts: consumers aren’t idiots. If you have an opinion, that’s fine. But don’t take deceitful measures to try and remedy the issue. Be honest and upfront about why you made the decisions you did and stand by them. 

    As for Brian Ross, at least the president of ABC had the cojones to publicly apologize about speculatively linking the Aurora shooting suspect to the Tea Party. Maybe Chick-Fil-A could take a page out of ABC News’ book, after all. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurenfairbanks Lauren Fairbanks

     Reposting this – couldn’t get it to link to my FB initially.

    What about this blog post is pure speculation? The fact that the Jim Henson Company ended their partnership with Chick-Fil-A? Or the fact that fake accounts with stock photo images were created and then deleted? 
    Aside from that, this blog post makes an important point about companies’ social media efforts: consumers aren’t idiots. If you have an opinion, that’s fine. But don’t take deceitful measures to try and remedy the issue. Be honest and upfront about why you made the decisions you did and stand by them. 
    As for Brian Ross, at least the president of ABC had the cojones to publicly apologize about speculatively linking the Aurora shooting suspect to the Tea Party. Maybe Chick-Fil-A could take a page out of ABC News’ book, after all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1690590417 Darren Turner

    But but…they wouldnt lie about this! They’re a CHRISTIAN company!

    If they have the gall to lie about why they ended their relationship with the Jim Henson Company, then they have the gall to try to deceive the public with fake social media accounts. Moreover, if these people were real, then why cant anyone find them? 

    Lying is detestable. Lying for jesus? I guess that’s cool

  • Stephen

    Not a great write up. 1) if you want to be transparent, go sit in a chickfila for a few minutes. 2) chickfila isn’t against gay marriage, they are for traditional marriage between a man & woman. Where is there any hate in that? The media is making it how they want to.

    • Rin 33

      Didn’t you understand the part about people not being idiots. Chick-Fil-A isn’t simply “for traditional marriage”, they ARE against gay marriage! The COO said it outright! You are just twisting language to disguise its true meaning.

      There is a lot of hate directed at gay people and I’d say denying gay couples and their families the over 1300 rights associated with civil marriage is pretty hateful. The whole “traditional marriage” argument is a sham. People can get married at a drive through in Vegas, for a few weeks as a publicity stunt, for 72 hours and even convicted murders serving life sentences can get married… But gay people can’t? Does that even make any sense at all? Where’s the outrage over divorce? Where is the religious fervor over adultery?

  • http://twitter.com/GT_NoTR Earl R

    I think that companies need to get caught up to a digital world. It is no longer feasible to really try and get one over on your consumers with people being so knowledgeable and information being so readily available. 

    What they should have done (agree or disagree with them) is double down on their stance. Explain why they share that stance and open it up for honest discussion from both sides. Instead of trying to stick their head in the sand, and come out looking rosy. 

    What was one incident.. has now turned into a much larger PR nightmare because now consumers are unwary on trusting the brand in addition to being opposed to their stances. 

  • Pingback: Chick-fil-a: How NOT to manage social media « Anaceta Corp

  • K. M. H.

    Sounds like Chick-Fil-A could use a new social media company…

    Excellent write up. In an age when everything can so easily be googled, it amazes me that people still think they can get away with stuff like this. I’ve read about this controversy from many different angles; it’s very interesting to see how their social media presence fueled the flame when it could have been much better utilized to address the public’s concerns.