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Cupcakes And Controversy: A Lesson In Business Social Media Etiquette

As a PR and social media professional, a person who blogs about Kansas City and a lover of cupcakes I was particularly caught off guard recently when a local cupcake shop publicly bashed a local dairy company for no longer supplying their milk.

Here’s the Facebook post:

Did BabyCakes Bakery Step Over The Line By Calling Out Their Business Partner On Facebook?

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This bothered me for a couple reasons:

  • From a PR/social media perspective, the fact that whoever is posting to their Facebook account thought this was okay honestly blows my mind. It seemed very childish and unprofessional.
  • From a person who blogs about Kansas City perspective, to see one KC local company beating up on another made me sad.
  • From a lover of cupcakes perspective, it made me annoyed because I had been wanting to try their cupcakes for a long time, but now they are no longer a place I care to visit.

Add all of those things up, and the fact is that you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry in front of customers. They want to go in and enjoy their cupcakes. They don’t want to go in and feel bad for the bakery because they no longer have a certain brand of milk, or get upset with the milk company because it’s no longer at that shop.

Better ways the bakery could have handled it:

  • Not posting anything negative about the previous supplier in the shop or online: The fact is that a lot of people probably wouldn’t have noticed that the milk was different anyway, so there’s no need to call attention to it. In the interim, put up a sign in the shop that states you’re sorry you’re out of milk, but you’re looking for a new vendor and hope to have a new supply soon.
  • Prepare employees: Prepare talking points for employees in case a customer does ask. The talking points shouldn’t include anything negative about the previous supplier.
  • Celebrate: They could have shared news about the new partnership in an exciting way through their social media channels without mentioning the old one.
  • Do a promotion: They could have done a promo by giving away a free carton of the new milk to customers on the first day it was available and talked about their excitement about the partnership.

Final thoughts:

While business partnerships can be similar to personal relationships, companies shouldn’t react to losing a vendor the same way a high school girl may react to her boyfriend breaking up with her. And let’s face it, at the end of the day cupcakes and controversy don’t go hand in hand.

Amy Stewart is a Senior Manager of Social Media Strategy for Intouch Solutions & author of great Kansas City-focused blog at Amy also tweets at @amylynnstewart, so be sure to check out her blog & twitter account. Thanks to Amy for sharing her insights!
Thanks to Amy for sharing her thoughts on this situation! It’s a great lesson that businesses can learn about how they treat each other in the social space. Have a comment or a similar experience? Share it in a comment!


Monday 12th of August 2013

No need to throw the bad guys under the bus via social media. You're right, focus on the good and moving on to the next opportunity, otherwise it's a lose-lose proposition.


Monday 1st of July 2013

The things that bother me most about this article are that it assumes that 1) everything a company does happens to match your own personal tastes and 2) that anything *perceived* as negative was *intended* as negative or intended in any way other than the way that I took it, specifically "For a while we couldn't get milk, BUT are pleased to announce and endorse our new supplier because it caters to local small business," (something I heartily endorse and statistically so does almost everyone else in the US, states that the vast majority of people knowingly and intentionally make a conscious decision to support local business).

The deeper problem with this is that Twitter really isn't appropriate for most day to day business. But, that's only one of the reasons that it is largely a risky idea to use it in business (never mind that they COPYRIGHT everything you say there, see the TOS, Section 5, which says they can use anything you say in any way they wish, including but not limited to selling your ideas for their profit -- but you still retain the rights that you give up by using the service).

As for the second point, there will always be people who can see something negative in ANYTHING you say. Companies who fall victim to their fears are likely to get slapped for doing so. Take for example the public reaction to the censure of Paula Deen as the result of the media's incorrect and inappropriate characterization of what she supposedly said. Many people that I know are reacting very badly to that censure and are openly rejecting those corporations. Even more so when they find out what she actually said.


Thursday 7th of February 2013

I think it is perfectly ok what she wrote. apart from the freedom of speech and all that crap, if you look at it, deep down we are all capitalists. We will do whatever it takes for us to get business. Also, her post seems to highlight a bigger underlying issue of marginalization of small businesses, which btw generate our jobs.

They had some issues about a business in Boston that did not welcome Gay people, was beaten up on social media. Was it professional, NO. But very effective.


Thursday 7th of February 2013

Paresh - I'm totally with you. The post did get lots of good engagement, several likes and comments backing the bakery. But at the end of the day, is it worth acting unprofessionally just to get good numbers??? I (obviously) don't think so. :)

Amy Kiel

Thursday 7th of February 2013

Poor choice by BabyCakes. A post like theirs leaves a bad taste in my mouth, which never happens when it comes to cupcakes! I love the analogy of a highschool girl scorned. It is a bummer that Shatto seems to be no longer servicing small businesses like these, but who knows what went into making that decision. I love the options your post provided for ways they could have handled this better, although I have to admit, if I were a regular at the bakery I would notice that Shatto was missing. Alas, this situation still provides a great opportunity to promote the new brand taking its place. Great post, Amy!


Thursday 7th of February 2013

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Amy! Totally agree about your comment on Shatto not selling to small businesses anymore - there's got to be way more to it than something that could fit in a Facebook post, which is why BabyCakes shouldn't have put it out there in the first place. Interesting side note - I had no idea Belfonte was local until I saw that post!

David Chiles

Thursday 7th of February 2013

Please try Baby Cakes cupcakes for two reasons. One, Proper netiquette is forgiving. Two, don't cut your nose off to spite your face. BabyCakes could have made an inflammatory posts for many reasons. Take it for what it is, a forgivable flame. Further, I recently read in a marketing book how stuff like works.


Thursday 7th of February 2013

David - You make a good point. And I agree, I shouldn't cross them off of my list because of a Facebook post. However, I also don't think they should have even put me in the situation of feeling that way - which is the point of the post. And yes, while stuff like this may work, I just don't think it's the best way of doing business. That being said, I will have a cupcake for you!