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Three Blind Mice: How Hoyts got stung in the Social Media mouse-trap

Rat eating chips


Hoyts spruiks on its Facebook page that their La Premiere cinemas’ offer unsurpassed luxury in comfort and quality. Unless of course you were a patron at their Carousel cinema in Western Australia over Easter where the action off the screen was akin to a Hitchcock horror film with tales of the wiggly kind – reports of mice running rampant through the cinema and eating food off the patrons’ trays!

The first photo of a mouse eating from a bowl of chips surfaced on the Hoyts Australia Facebook page on Monday April 1 – but it quickly became apparent this was no April Fool’s Day Joke.

The post at 5.42pm by Sue Donnelly and accompanying photo spread like a virtual plague and quickly racked up over 3,000 likes, 4,000 shares and more than 2,200 comments on this post alone. Other patrons confirmed the mouse epidemic at the cinema with similar encounters and then the flood gates opened on the Hoyts Australia official Facebook page with hundreds more comments from around the country posted direct to their page – but unlike a classic silent movie, the response from Hoyts was one of deafening silence.

Their brand was under Social Media attack and they were ignoring the golden rules of crisis management – the first hour after the crisis has broken is the important one. How quickly you respond in a timely, open and honest way will determine how your PR machine can control the story, or not.

In fact it was 18 hours later before Hoyts issued a statement via Facebook about the issues raised and their response had the hallmarks of a carefully crafted message that no doubt got vetted by legal several times before agreement  on its release.

But was it too little too late? Had Hoyts got stung in the Social Media mouse-trap – I think so.

By this stage the story had spread to traditional media channels and headlined local television that night and picked up by news outlets around the nation and online, hundreds more direct posts to Hoyts Australia including a video of a mouse eating an ice-cream – the viral Oscar for best supporing actor!

So what can Hoyts learn from this experience?

The first thing we ask our clients when they discuss the pros and cons of ‘buying into’ the Social Media space is how committed are they to managing their social media platforms and do they have a dedicated and trained Community Manager to manage their online presence?

Too many fall short of thinking they can just have a Facebook page or Twitter account without any real thought or due diligence on what it will require to manage.

Do they have a risk mitigations strategy in place? Have they established house rules to moderate their page? What are the terms and conditions for interacting on their community page, and most importantly what is their emergency response plan when things go wrong?

Unfortunately for Hoyts it would appear they haven’t asked these questions internally. Despite being an entertainment business where I can happily visit pretty much at any time to watch a movie, their social media monitoring of their official Facebook page is restricted to the hours of 9am to 5pm AEST, 7 days a week. As was the case with this incident no response was made until the next working day – too little, too late – they had missed the golden hour to respond. Where was the online monitoring of their site and why did they take so long to respond?

While happy to engage online with their audience of 96,356 ‘likes’ on the nice and proactive posts  the response to this issue left a bad taste in many of its loyal audience and seen as rather dismissive.

The issued ‘statement’ was not qualified by anyone of significance at Hoyts. So while they perpetuate ‘they take the comfort of our guests and staff that serve them very seriously” it would have been nice to see their CEO stand-up and take ownership of the issue and provide a commitment to its loyal patronage to make this the priority for the business until fixed.

Like many box-office flops, people have walked away from this experience disgusted and disappointed with many posts vowing never to return to Hoyts again. Let’s hope Hoyts reflects seriously on their response to this issue and in future the only mice we see are up on the big screen with a re-run of Stuart Little, but unfortunately for many, the credits have already rolled on Hoyts!

Jarrod Greenwood, Head of WA/SA/NT





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