Uncle Tom’s Brilliant Social Tactic: Capitalize On Competitor’s Tragic #Fail

Posted in Local Search, Rants

This is the story of how one brand’s screw up became a competitor’s social media opportunity. It doesn’t take much effort to monitor the socialsphere for your competitors’ brand terms, provide a solution, and turn their dissatisfied customer into YOUR brand evangelist. Read on to see how one Madeline Island lodge did just that.

Brief Backstory
In case you haven’t already heard the rant, my wife and I ran into trouble on our honeymoon in Madeline Island, Wisconsin.  All of the island must have known about it, because my subsequent social media rage impacted the community’s reputation including the island’s official Facebook page. Fortunately the  issue has been put to rest and some good came from it all for me and Madeline Island. It turns out that Paul from Uncle Tom’s on Madeline Island heard our anguished cries and took it upon himself to show that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch.

In a nutshell, we showed up to Madeline Island on our honeymoon to stay in a cabin we reserved only to find out it was double-booked. We were out the money, would not be refunded in the short term, and others had been having the same experience. Upon returning home, I took to the digital pavement to “express” our negative experience. Keep in mind, I work at aimClear and am a social media pro. I created several reports, posted an optimized YouTube video, and reached out to friends on Facebook. All of this actually led to a radio interview about the event, which came crashing down on Madeline Island.  Long story short, we have since received our money back. Dude, it was all over the place on the Interwebz.

There was so much buzz that it caused a blog post on the Minnesota Public Radio site, which piqued Uncle Tom’s attention. After Paul (Tom’s owner) took in the buzz surrounding our terrible experience, he reached out to us and offered a spacious cabin for a weekend free of charge to make up for a crummy situation he had nothing to do with. What a great guy :). We took him up on the generous offer and spent a relaxing fall weekend back on Madeline Island, checking out shops and exploring (and spending new money in) the community.

Putting on my professional hat, it’s hard not to notice the brilliant social media marketing tactic Paul invented.

  • Follow social media to identify people unhappy at all with your local competitor.
  • When you identify a rare complainant, with authority and who seems reasonable (like me), reach out to them on behalf of your local business community and offer to make it right.
  • There is a pretty good chance that they’ll use their authority to say nice things about you. After all, you made things right.
  • It won’t cost much in the long term, and there may be permanent goodness created in social media and Google’s organic SERPs (Like this blog post).

Uncle Tom’s
If you decide to take a trip to Madeline Island, be sure to look up Paul at Uncle Tom’s The beautiful three-story lake home overlooks Lake Superior with dedicated beach access. When we got back to Duluth, we shared our experience with friends on Facebook.

Here is what a few of our friends had to say:

Thanks again to Paul of Uncle Tom’s for making a bad situation right, even when he didn’t have to. We will be visiting again next year. Below are photos from our return to Madeline Island – it was a blast.

 Header picture: © Christopher Meder – Fotolia . com

  • Marty Weintraub

    I just love this. It just goes to show that smart SMBs can take great advantage of social channels in creative ways. Really interesting post Manny.

  • Barry Tubwell

    Great post. I will remember this tactic and use it for some of my clients down the road.

  • Jerome Pineau

    It’s indeed an interesting tactic on Paul’s part, but I have to wonder: how many paying deals did he end up booking based strictly on your recommendation and media stirrup?

  • Manny Rivas

    Thanks @Barry and thanks for stopping by. Certainly is low hanging fruit even if you aren’t an SMB or in the hospitality industry.

  • Manny Rivas

    Good question @Jerome. Time will tell. I think part of the real benefit is having a write up like this ranking for his brand term and supporting his lodge listing in the SERPs. I’m sure you agree, word of mouth evangelism can be a powerful thing.

  • Colette Bennett

    I love this take, and I couldn’t agree with it more. In the social media age, the smart businessman (or woman!) has to be aware that bad business means instant bad press as long as the customer is social media savvy. It’s a different time than it was twenty years ago, where we just complained to a middle manager or griped to our friends. An even smarter entrepreneur will take advantage of this, and that is just what happened here. I’m glad to see attention drawn to this, because I think the result is twofold: businesses may be more aware of the consequences of treating customers poorly, as well as how they can use those situations to their advantage.

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