What Every Brand Can Learn From Pizza Hut’s Facebook Page.

It started with a Facebook ad.

When I’m not hammering out scheduled posts for my various pages, I relax by looking at others. Studying the composition of the photos and the taglines accompanying them. Social media marketers are in a unique position. The positives and negatives of our work are instantly live for the world to see. The comment section underneath tells the tale, whether we like the story or not. So here I am, at 3am, staring at a Pizza Hut Facebook ad with over 3000 comments, 56 shares, and 1000 likes. I can’t knock those numbers. After their rebranding in 2014 it seemed things were looking up for the struggling food franchise. But as we all know, the devil is in the details.

The ad itself is simple enough: a picture of a beautiful looking pizza on a poolside table with eager hands reaching in to grab a slice. The tagline reads, “Swim. Tan. Pizza. Repeat.” They have the composition locked. Simple, sweet, it conveys the air of the American summer we all dreamed of as kids. It’s nostalgic and modern in one cheesy bite. However, a quick glance at the comments reveals something much less simple.

The comments contain endless pages of unhappy customers posting photos and experiences that are a far cry from the American pizza dream the Hut is trying to sell. Under each negative experience is one of Pizza Hut’s standard retorts:

“We never want your pizza to be anything less than perfect”, “We want to hear more about this”, or “We never want you to have this experience.”

After each standardized sentence is a link to their customer service site and the initials of the writer, one step above anonymity, signing each response. With each new ad, the comment section follows the same trend — a dumpster fire on the Internet gracing the screens of over 2 million followers. The counterpoints to the feel goods echo through the halls. In this sea of negative experiences, stands alone a positive:

“I love Pizza Hut! Always good when I order it.”

The Huts response?

“We never want you to have this experience. Share the details at www.pizzahut.com/phcares so we can look into this. ^AB”

Social media is not just about speed, it’s about content. While Facebook pages give consumers a chance to fire off without any oversight, a brand’s response needs more forethought.

One commenter had a very specific issue with Pizza Hut and the staff it employs. They write, “Hard to trust the food when the employees look like they’d rather be doing nothing and collecting that Obama money.” Pizza Hut responds “We want to hear more from you. Share the details at www.pizzahut.com/phcares so we can look into this. ^AT”

“AT”, are you sure? Ask yourself, what does Obama have to do with pizza? Does your brand gain anything by continuing this conversation? This person doesn’t appear to be talking about a specific experience you can fix, so why fuel the fire? Keep the conversation on point and never be afraid to delete comments that aim to ignite. By responding, you are encouraging people like this commenter to take over your airwaves with an agenda that’s far from yours. You are paying for those comments. Save your money.

No one should walk away from this article thinking Pizza Hut has everything wrong, or even that Pizza Hut only garnishes negative responses. The principles are there — the same ones you can read on any blog site, usually accompanied by the title “10 ways to make Facebook work for you!” They respond to complaints with haste, they take the conversation offline; their photos and tag lines have a consistent voice.

But here’s where the details matter:

When you scroll to the bottom of the Pizza Hut comments, you’ll find the unseen testimonials of hundreds of happy customers, banished to the no man’s land of “View more comments”. Their rebranding may have changed a lot of people’s perspectives; you just wouldn’t know it from first glance. With social media, that glance may be all you get.

On Facebook Pages, the auto-setting for comment order is by response. When the page responds to a comment, it gets pushed to the top of the conversation. So when you only respond to negative comments, that’s all the average customer will see. It gives the appearance that your brand isn’t trustworthy. This in turn will lose you any new customers who otherwise may have been satisfied. Am I saying respond to every comment? No, for most brands that’s just not realistic. However, you can change this through your Page settings. This will make it so the comments are listed in order of time posted, regardless of response. Furthermore, it’s equally important to respond to the positive. Rewarding positive conversations will garnish more and reinforce the loyalty of happy customers.

Pizza Hut’s response time is something to be admired. They average 15 minutes, but the issue is within the content. Firing off copy/paste responses makes you seem disingenuous. Taking the time to craft a custom response can do wonders.

Social media is gleaned as transparency for a company, giving the average consumer a place to connect with the brands they know, love, or despise. It’s the Wild West of advertising and without proper oversight, brands quickly lose the draw. As a brand, no matter the size, you owe it to yourself and your customers to learn the details “10 things” won’t tell you. Stay consistent. Reward your happy customers, appease (to a point) the unhappy ones, and when your brand hits the size of Pizza Hut, hire a real social media manager. Your customers — and profits — will thank you.