TikTok is becoming the fastest-growing media app with no signs of decreasing in popularity anytime soon. While some brands didn’t take it seriously at first due to its light-hearted origins, more food establishments have embraced it since the beginning of quarantine as an opportunity for an advertising and PR presence. In 2020, Dunkin Donuts announced a partnership with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio and added a new menu item called “The Charli.” For Super Bowl 55 in 2021, Chipotle used TikTok (this article is from 2020 not 2021, so would be Superbowl LIV use roman numerals rather than regular numbers) in a never-before-seen way to interrupt traditional forms of advertising and reach its users throughout the game.
While TikTok is great for promoting hype, it’s also an easy way for negative posts about a brand to spiral out of control. Recently, Starbucks fired an employee after making viral TikToks about dealing with demanding customers. Similarly, a recent TikTok trend encourages fast-food workers to expose bad practices in the industry. What should the owners and managers do when a restaurant is called out in a negative TikTok?
Do Not Respond Publicly
Unless you have a PR team working with you full-time, it’s not wise to get into a public debate. This could quickly turn into a flame war. While it can be challenging to resist, do your best to respond to negative TikToks with radio silence.
Reach Out Personally
Reach out to the person who posted the content in person. See if you can work with them to have them remove it. Be careful about responding to them online, as screenshots could be used against you. Listen to their concerns. Sometimes employees air grievances over a public channel because they want to feel like their concerns are being validated. Go over social media guidelines for your place of employment and determine if they violated them. If so, consider whether you want to give them a warning or terminate them, but also keep in mind that this could create even more online negativity for your brand.
Create a Positive TikTok Presence for Your Brand
Now more than ever, restaurants and other brands embrace the platform and create their own TikTok presence. Combat some of the negativity with positive buzz about your brand. If you create an authentic following and engage with your audience, you will be more likely to have an online community that will go to bat for you if negative rumors emerge.
Consider Protecting Your Brand By Editing Commenting Settings
Though many brands have been unsure of how to deal with TikTok’s commenting feature, there are certainly options to be aware of. Consider disabling commenting on specific posts or requiring approval of comments before allowing them to be posted. While some may criticize this as inauthentic, it’s helpful to know in a crisis.
Prevent the Problem Through Employee Training
More businesses are developing a social media contract for employers to sign while onboarding. By signing this contract, the workers are made aware of the consequences of posting negative comments about a brand. If they go against this agreement, they should know what to expect. Beyond the fine print, be sure to reinforce these policies in a restaurant training program. This training will make all social media policies and expectations clear to your entire team.