Target’s (belated) response

About a week ago I blogged about Target’s handling, via their Facebook page, of a controversial topic (see: Target Response).

Simply put, they had made a campaign contribution – through a legal PAC – to an anti-gay candidate in Minnesota. Needless to say, this caused quite an uproar in social media. Yet, Target chose not to respond to the many angry posts on their wall.

Now they have….sort of.

As you can see by this story, Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote a letter to his employees apologizing for the way the donation played out. In addition, based on a discussion on Target’s Facebook page, they responded to individual complaints with the following e-mail:

Target has long believed that engaging in civic activities is an important and necessary element of operating a national retail business. What’s more important than any one candidate’s stance on a particular issue is how we nurture thoughtful, long-term growth in the state of Minnesota.www.target.com/company, and view the Civic Activity page.

Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives. To continue to grow and create jobs and opportunity in our home state, we believe it is imperative to be engaged in public policy and the political process. That is why we are members of organizations like the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and many others. And that is why we decided to contribute to MN Forward.

MN Forward’s objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority. We operate best when working collaboratively with legislators on both sides of the aisle. In fact, if you look at our Federal PAC contributions year to date, you will see that they are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats. For more information please visit

Target has a large stake in Minnesota’s future, which is why it is so important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders. As an international business that is proud to call Minnesota home, it is critical that we have a business environment that allows us to be competitive. Our guests, team members, communities and shareholders depend on Target to remain competitive.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Hanson
Target Executive Offices

My point is not to take sides in this issue. Target has the right to support the candidate(s) they choose and consumers have the right to praise or punish Target for those stands.

However, since Target has established a rather firm beachhead in social media you would think they would respond to a tempest like this in a more timely – and direct – fashion. Isn’t the point of developing brand relationships in social media to be responsive?

I have talked to several clients recently who are looking to wade into the social media waters with their brands. One of their big concerns it – will my ‘likers’ see any complaints?

The answer is – yes….but. Brands should not look upon this as a negative. Rather, they should embrace an opportunity that resonates on two levels.

First, promote responses to complaints soothes a cranky customer and (ideally) keeps them in the fold. Social media has dramatically shrunk the consumer response cycle from days to minutes. This is an advantage for any brand. It allows them to hear what their customers are concerned about and take steps (when possible) to assuage those concerns.

Second, it shows those who are satisfied how their ‘favorite’ company treats the disgruntled. In any exchange like this, the reader will almost always identify with the complainer over the brand – even if they disagree with the complaint. The complainer represents the consumer base at-large and how the brand treats one is perceived as how the brand will treat all.

Social media leads to transparency in this relationship. To ignore – or dramatically delay a response to – any complaint fosters the image of the large, impersonal, monolithic brand that cares little about the people that support it.

I do not believe Target shot itself in the foot with their handling of this episode. The public’s memory is notoriously short. However, hopefully Target – and any other brand using social media – learned a valuable lesson in responding promptly.

A point to consider for your brand. What is your planned response to social media controversies or complaints? This should be a part of your social media policy and strategy.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan

Social Media Specialist
Hyper Smash

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About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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One Response to Target’s (belated) response

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