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May 3, 2019

How to Avoid Social Media Mudslinging

In recent years, the beauty and cosmetic industry has witnessed an explosive growth of online ambassadors, or “influencers”. In the last few weeks, you may have seen the profile of two beauty influencers skyrocket into notoriety due to a messy and bitter feud between millennial YouTube sensation James Charles, and Tati Westbrook, the founder of beauty vitamin brand HALO. This raises questions about how to handle your brand’s social media presence, and what to do when mudslinging occurs online.

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Why Mudslinging Matters

If you weren’t already aware, James Charles and Tati Westbrook are extremely successful influencers in the beauty industry, having amassed 25 million subscribers on Youtube alone between the two of them. Charles is well-known for his creative, colourful makeup artistry, with a massive fan following all over the globe. On his visit to Birmingham for a product launch last year, the city was brought to a standstill, demonstrating the clout his brand has amongst his primary market of millenial and Gen A consumers, which has secured a number of lucrative commercial partnerships. Westbrook, on the other hand, heads the HALO beauty vitamin brand, a seasoned career woman in her own right, and until recently, acted as Charles’ mentor and even helped him to launch his Youtube career.

However, after the upload of Westbrook’s 40-minute Youtube video titled “bye sister”, in reference to Charles’ catchphrase, it became clear their relationship had turned sour. In a public severance of their friendship, Westbrook accused Charles of promoting HALO’s main competitor in his Instagram stories, questions his integrity, and made allegations of more inappropriate behaviour behind closed doors. Seeing such an established industry leader air her issues on such a public forum resulted in Charles losing over 2 million subscribers in just 48 hours, as Westbrook seemed to encourage fans to pick a side in the feud. Charles soon issued his own video, apologising for some of the allegations and refuting others, which saw the tide turn once more and the dust begin to settle. As Charles’ following rebuilds, people started asking why someone in Westbrook’s position felt the need to upload a 40-minute social rant against what was at worst, a thoughtless mistake by a much younger, less experienced industry peer?

The Charles/Westbrook saga is an extreme example of how quickly a mudslinging match can topple a well-cultivated brand identity. It speaks to the integrity of your brand, how effective your issues management may be, and the runaway beast that is social media.

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How to Handle Mudslingers

The internet has provided consumers with a wonderful outlet to voice their opinions, and most of the time this can be a powerful tool that works in favour of your brand. However, you never know when criticism, anger, or negativity may be levelled in your direction on social media, whether by an unsatisfied customer, disgruntled colleague, an unscrupulous competitor or a brand partner who feels your working relationship is not working in their favour. Fortunately, there are ways you handle mudslinging calmly and firmly, preserving your integrity and keeping your reputation intact.

  1. Always take the high road – No matter what accusations are hurled your way, it is important to avoid being dragged into a public spat, especially on social media. Remember, even if comments or videos are deleted, it’s likely someone, somewhere will have kept a record of what was posted. Whatever you put out there is likely to be public for all time, so make sure its something you’d be happy to have associated with your brand, even when the feud is put to bed.
  2. Don’t fight fire with fire – Leave video or Twitter rants to the celebrities, and avoid being dragged into public spats. More often than not, doing so will damage your reputation even more than any mudslinger could. Resist the temptation to respond in kind, and take the time to calm down and collect yourself before thinking about issuing a response in any form.
  3. Acknowledge and take action – The best way to save face and escape from the line of fire is to diffuse the situation by acknowledging the comments and pushing for an opportunity to find a resolution. This does not mean you have to agree with what was said, but simply making sure to respect the feelings or dissatisfaction of the other party and publicly stating that you are willing to work towards resolving the issue in a way that works for all involved.
  4. Moving on – On occasion, you may find yourself dealing with a mudslinger who has no desire for a resolution, and only wants to spew vitriol about you or your brand wherever they can. In this case, once all other protocol has failed, it is still important to put the matter to bed for others who may be watching. By issuing a statement detailing what you have done to resolve the situation, you are showing other potential consumers that the problem is not with you. Close your statement by demonstrating your willingness and openness to find a professional solution, but explain that you will not engage any further with commentary on social media regarding this matter.
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