How important is a social media response? Ask @RedRobinBurgers

Posted on June 19, 2013

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Red Robin recently made a lot of veggie-lovers angry with an ad that promotes their veggie burger option for your “teenage daughter who’s going through a phase.” Needless to say, vegetarians got more than a little fired up and took to the Red Robin Facebook page and Twitter to air their frustration. They threatened to boycott the restaurant, names were called, sticks were thrown — standard behavior for the internet set, really.

[For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a vegetarian. Just not one who’s easily offended. I thought the ad was vaguely cute and really not worth getting worked up over.]

What’s potentially more interesting here is the response from Red Robin. In coverage of the fiasco (Red Robin Garden Burger Ad Under Fire For Dissing Vegetarians VIDEO), Red Robin’s communications manager basically says they’re going to let the ad run its course as it’s scheduled to go out of rotation soon anyway. On the social media front – Twitter and Facebook – Red Robin has their lips sealed. They’re letting their meat eating customers duke it out with the veggies on Facebook; and they haven’t really mentioned the commercial on Twitter.

Is this a smart move? On one hand, there’s probably nothing Red Robin could say to smother the flames. They’d likely only spin another cycle of hate mail and online ranting. On the other, should they acknowledge the uproar they’ve caused with at least a simple apology? Should they show their fans and followers they’re listening?

My advice to brands has always been to quickly acknowledge the social media firestorm, apologize if it’s appropriate and move on. It’s a more interesting dilemma in the case of Red Robin. Sure, they’ve offended some people, but the dissenters only account for a tiny portion of their audience. This isn’t a “Motrin upsetting moms” kind of situation. It’s a burger restaurant upsetting vegetarians. That’s already kind of a given, right?

The question remains, on social media, at what point do you just let it blow over? I’d love to hear what you think!

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