24 Replies to “The Audacity of Corporate Social Media Failure”

  1. Easy to be nice when the message makes so much sense!

    I find it particularly scary the biggest mouthpieces in social media are using these channels to amplify more mindless fear-mongering and blame-placing. We, in America, have been subjected to an evening news program ripe with sensationalist finger-pointing for years, and now “Citizens United” does anything but, pouring billions into campaign coffers of politicians who campaign almost purely on the demerits of their opponents. 

    Does anyone want to actually solve problems anymore?

    Who are any of us to lecture the likes of these corporate juggernauts on social media policy? Apple isn’t huge because of social media. They’re huge because they have a fashionable product that everyone and their brothers want right now. Google isn’t huge because of social media. They’re huge because, everything they do, they deliver on their promise to do it better than anyone else. 

    Social media != remarkable organization

    The easy way to affect fundamental change in this regard? Stop producing also-ran, cookie-cutter products and services that require advertising to keep your doors open. Specialize. Make stuff that matters. Make a fundamental difference in the lives of your customers – not a subconscious suggestion of one.

    All of this is due to advertising. 

    Google makes billions selling advertising.
    Facebook makes billions selling advertising.
    Mainstream media? Fully funded by advertising.

    Eliminate advertising (by limiting production to remarkable quality at every pricepoint) and imagine how those business models would have no choice to change.

    The person who says it’s impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it. This post deserved more than a single, wordy comment. :P

    1. I’ve been waiting for you all day good sir! You’re certainly right, this post does deserve more than one and hopefully you’re just the first. It’s sad that fear mongering comes into play and the comparison to the nightly news is apt. I think we start out by thinking we’re helping by pointing out the faux pas, but overtime, we just become part of the same problem we’re all just taking turns kicking a dead horse.
      I don’t know that it’s a matter of people not wanting to solve problems nearly as much as them not being conscious of the fact that they’re making them worse. Once you’ve brought a problem to a companies attention they are either 1) going do anything within reason to to fix it because they care or 2) do nothing because they don’t. We are far better spending our time trying to help those that fall into category #1 than we are trying to get those in category 2 to wake up. Yet sadly, there’s a lot of time spent screaming at someone who stopped listening a while ago.Every time one of these explosions happen, you can’t help but feel that all we end up doing is steering people in category 1 away…As for the remarkable products = social media, that’s a tough one… There is no doubt that a remarkable product making marking it on social media far easier, but in several categories, you don’t get a ripple unless you drop some rocks in the water. You have to be smart about it, you have to focus on the right things, but when you just hope for things to happen rather than being smart about making them happen, nothing usually happens.

      1. Thanks for that, Mr. Schechter. I tend to demonstrate a most callous disregard for the comments-should-be-kept-shorter-than-the-original-post “rule.” Nice to know the fire is welcome. You, sir, just gained another subscriber. 

        And look at that – more comments. Excellent!

        I think it was an episode of the Daily Show with John Stewart where I picked up the theory of companies being either ignorant or evil. Why do they do (or not) do things? Either they are ignorant (don’t know) or evil (don’t care). 

        Sadly, I think we’re slowly losing sight that calling attention to problems is only valuable when it prompts us to develop real solutions to same. Yes, we need to know where things are broken, but placing blame – even to the extent we’re investigating ignorance or evil – does nothing to solve them. 

        Any fool can tell you what’s wrong.

        Perhaps that’s why anyone can be a social media consultant. The difference between making a living and making a difference is delivering real solutions. 

        I’m trying to deliver solutions to my tiny little corner of the web. It’s why I stopped reading your manifesto when I got to “Do as much as you read.” I knew right then and there I had to subscribe without any further delay. I mean, you sum it up perfectly in clean, sans serif…

        Actually fucking DO something. 

        Huzzah!

        1. Thanks for following along and I’m always happy to debate the merit of something. That’s why I was thrilled to jump in for Geoff. We need more conversations like this and less mindless yelling. 

          I also couldn’t agree more on the solution approach to calling out problems. Anyone can tell you how you suck, few can tell you what you could have done better. Indignation is fun, but not particularly useful…

          As for the PA Manifesto, it was as much to me as it was anyone else. I can easily fall into the hole of calling out more crap than I make or fix. Hopefully the site doesn’t let you down and thanks for giving it a shot (and for jumping in here).

  2. Hi Geoff (in absentia) and Michael (in presencia), 

    I was going to cite that Penton study and saw that your statistics came from that same resource. I wrote a post last weekend about that study because it revealed how little top executives involved in marketing knew about their own marketing initiatives. It’s a great study. Too bad more people aren’t reading it!

    I will say one thing about pointing out a company’s foibles in the online space. If done in a constructive way, it can teach people things. For example, the recent Toyota debacle is drawing attention to the fact that some companies still do not know the difference between tweeting and spamming. That’s a big problem. If you aren’t able to differentiate between those two actions, you are probably smart to stay away from the online world until it’s more clear to you.

    This is part of why the “just jump in” philosophy drives me so crazy. You SHOULD be afraid of the online world. There is a lot to learn. There is a lot you need to cover your butt on. There is a lot you need to plan for. Jumping in to the next big thing can often cause heartbreak, and the company won’t even understand what happened.

    Well, I’d better cut this off before I start ranting and raving. Er, before I continue ranting and raving. 

    Great post :)

    1. I’m still a bit confused by that study as it seems “Concern over negative feedback from customers” would have been a far better question than customer privacy (it also would have seriously skewed these results). 

      As for the criticism, if done in a constructive way, it will actually be listened to. Once outrage sets in, the brands often stop listening. As Rich points out, these things tend to blow over, except to be remembered by “Social Media Experts” in future powerpoint presentations. Outrage rarely leads to positive outcomes. It’s awesome that the consumer has more power, but they also need to learn how to wield it.

      As for Toyota, I completely agree with the point, but is it a debacle or an example of bad marketing? Part of the problem is the way that we frame these things. Go out on the street and ask 100 people, hell, ask 1000 people what they think of the Toyota Debacle. I assure you, the only thing you’ll be met with is blank stares. Hopefully they learned from it, hopefully others learned from our discussion about it, but even framing it as a debacle is a subtle example of the problem.

      Maybe this is a byproduct of “just jumping in” back in the day before we were hunting for problems, but that helped inevitably lead me to a better plan for us. I don’t actually think the problem is “just jumping in”, but “just leaping in”. When we started, we had no idea what we were doing, but we knew that. We went slow, we improved and planned based on advice and experience. Did we make mistakes? Sure. Do we still make mistakes? Absolutely. Are we a far better company because of the things we learned before we had any idea what the hell we were doing. No doubt. 

      Rant away :) Always happy for a little back and forth.

      1. The study was a bit superficial in some places, but I still thought it was pretty darned interesting.

        Regarding Toyota, I think even people who don’t do marketing or who don’t use social media to market their products knew that something was amiss when they were targeted by one of those errant tweets. That’s how these things work, I think. Folks who aren’t buried in the marketing world still can experience social media not done properly. And that can be enough create the idea that marketers using social media have no idea what in the heck they’re doing.

        Right?

        1. Exactly, but I think this goes back to what I was saying. It’s not a matter of not jumping in, but not leaping. Had they set up one account and done reasonable outreach that would have been great, they took some massive leap and started spamming the universe. They should have been there, they shouldn’t have been desperately trying anything to support that campaign.

  3. As much as people find it annoying to have people leave comments about how they just blogged about this very same topic, the fact of the matter is, just last week, I blogged about this very same topic :)

    http://kaneconsulting.biz/blog/2012/the-rise-of-social-schadenfreude/

    I call the social rubber-necking of marketing failures
    “Social Schadenfreude” and there is oodles of it out there. And I do worry that it scares companies away from trying new things.
     

    1. I tend to connect with a lot of small local businesses and they were already scared to enter the space from the days of bad yelp reviews… you can only imagine how they react to these kinds of angry hordes. I get using the platform to voice problems, I’ve never understood the outrage before the brands even had a chance to react. Hell, in cases like Google (it’s hard to argue that one privacy policy is worse than 60) most people don’t even fully understand what they are angry about… P.S. I like term Social Schadenfreude, well played!

  4. Geoff, 

    I dunno. Like I mentioned on Facebook, I think companies have it pretty easy online. The overinflated negativity tends to slip away pretty quick.

    There is always that difference between attention and engagement. My daughter even does it from time to time. When she wants her mom’s attention, she leads with the most negative news of the day. When she wants to be engaged, she talks about best news. 

    With some exception, because I think there are people (yourself included) who work really hard at developing meaningful content, most of the Internet is just like that when it comes to mobbing … kindergarten. 

    Best, 
    Rich 

    1. There’s no doubt that the negativity has a temporary impact on the brand, but I think it has a permanent impact on the space. 

      While brands certainly need to (and really have no choice in) giving up a decent amount of control of their brand message, they are far less likely to be enthusiastic about the idea of ceding it to a mob of kindergardeners. Love the attention vs. engagement analogy, I think my problem (or more likely pet peeve) comes when individuals use brands bad attempts at engagement to get themselves attention… It’s no longer about offering feedback or helping others improve, it’s about the nonsense surrounding the hastag #fail… 

      1. Michael, 

        On those points, I absolutely agree with you. Personally, I would rather own the hashtag #win than #fail any day of the week. It’s harder to own, but harder sometimes produces better results in the longterm and attracts a different class of people. 

        While it always pays to appreciate the whole of the space, brands would be better off worrying about their own efforts. For the most part, companies attract what they put out.

        Rich

        1. If you really want to go get depressed, go do a twitter search on #Fail and then give #Win a try…

          I think it pays for brands to pay attention to both. I learned a lot about who we wanted to be in the space through learning from others. 

          It’s less exciting to follow the people who do it well, but far more valuable!

  5. This is a nice and refreshing post that has sat open and in a tab for a few days now. I am very happy to finally get through it. 

    Even with all its benefits, social media is not something that all brands need to embrace. No matter what the pundits say on business as usual being dead, engage or die, conversation is king, or any other cliche, the bottom line is what matters. I am not an Apple fan boy, but in all honesty their lack of social presence does not hurt their brand or bottom line. They are Scrooge McDucking it all over the place while others in their industry are trying to catch up.Many in the social space are focused in cultivating relationships without tying a benefit to those conversations and relationships. It is great to have a boat ton of friends and followers who like you. What isn’t great is when those friends and followers don’t transact.

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