You couldn’t find two better examples of the power of social media.
Over in the triumphant corner is Paul Trueman’s brilliant fundraising initiative for Refuge, launched on the back of a domestic abuse storyline in BBC Radio 4’s national treasure of a soap, The Archers.
Paul should know what he’s doing, as he’s Head of Social Media at a leading marketing agency, but even he has been blown away by the impact he’s had. His original target at launch in February was a thousand quid; the campaign has since sailed past £125,000 and is on the way to £150,000.
He used Facebook — particularly Archers’ fans groups — and Twitter to orchestrate his campaign, and it gathered more traction than he could ever have anticipated, generating a shedload of positive PR along the way.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, are the owners of Balgonie Castle, an events venue in Fife.
Like Paul, they also used Facebook and Twitter to effect — alas, though, to completely trash their own reputation.
To Have and to Hold
The meltdown pivots around bride-to-be Henia Roy who was due to wed at Balgonie in August last year.
Clearly there had been some toing and froing to which we were not privy, but things went ballistic when Henia asked a couple of — on the face of it uncontroversial — questions on a Facebook page.
Not on the official Balgonie page, to be clear, but within the confines of a separate brides’ support group.
She specifically didn’t mention where she was getting married or give away any other clues, but Balgonie’s Kelly Morris came straight back at her on the forum.
Not holding back, Ms Morris began sharing details of what they’d contractually agreed, warning that she was contacting her lawyer, and generally laying into her — and almost certainly breaching the Data Protection Act in the process.
Fellow brides rushed to Ms Roy’s defence, soon Balgonie’s Facebook page was under siege, and it’s fair to say nobody was taking any prisoners.
But Ms Morris didn’t do the prudent thing as it all spun hideously out of control.
No, having dug herself a truly impressive hole, she kept right on digging, resorting to swearing on her personal Facebook profile and — just to make sure no stone was left unturned — Tweeting links to her rants.
In Sickness and In Health
A rushed and illiterate statement posted on the venue website just fuelled the flames further.
This all kicked off in April and picked up a fair bit of mainstream media coverage — first locally and then from the nationals, with The Sun and Daily Mail having particular sport with this gem of a Bridezillas story.
Except that it was no laughing matter for anyone involved and although it was plainly an own goal of epic proportions, you nonetheless couldn’t help feeling sorry for the rest of the venue management team — including Ms Morris’ husband and father-in-law.
Ms Morris has apparently since been relieved of her wedding duties — an announcement came and went on the now hastily revamped Balgonie website — but it’s hard to see how the toxic fallout from all of this won’t continue tainting their operation for some time to come.
‘Till Death Do Us Part
It is of course way too late for meaningful damage limitation.
And even though they took down their venue Facebook profile page, the media had already helpfully reproduced some of the meatier screen-grabbed exchanges. That means the detail of this spat is sitting in the public domain indefinitely, and every time you Google ‘Balgonie’, up pops the whole sorry saga.
Somebody has meanwhile created a faux Balgonie Facebook page which you can’t immediately tell is not official. And guess what: it has more than 4,000 Likes and it’s full of more unhelpful posts, one featuring a screen grab of the official ‘apology’ long since removed from the venue website.
So what can we learn from all of this? That social media is much, much more potent than most of us really want to acknowledge and it has the power to upend the status quo at truly jaw-dropping speed.
When you harness it for good — as Paul Trueman has done with the Helen Titchener Rescue Fund — it can achieve results beyond your wildest dreams, but you mess with people on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else at your absolute peril.
And it matters not who has right on their side — that is never the point, as those who have been misrepresented by mainstream media down the years will wearily attest.
What does matter is learning how to manage your business reputation online as well as you possibly can in any situation — no matter how left field, bizarre, and unexpected the circumstances, no matter how irresistible the provocation.
Oh, and refraining from swearing at your customers and prospects on Facebook!