The Audacity of Corporate Social Media Failure

Failure - Essentials
Image by Rick Audet

It was interesting reading all of the social media criticism about Google’s privacy policy changes last week. A measured critical tone offers refreshing context to the usual outrage pundits spout when analyzing the latest corporate social media failure. These dramatic declarations of “FAIL” include the anticipated demise of the brand’s entire reputation, the stupidity of the management team, and a lament about companies “never getting it.”

Another example: Last December’s dissecting of Apple’s rigid social media policy that bars any meaningful discussion of the company by employees. There was no great shocker here given the company’s approach to product development and public blogs that leak Apple product news. Yet, the company was painted black and evil for it.

OK. Apple just reported $13 billion of profit last quarter, its best quarter ever. Meanwhile, its more social media friendly competition never get close to performing on this level.

Let’s be clear. Marketing is not about pleasing social media aficionados. It should deliver ROI or outcomes that boost a company’s bottom line.

Social media can make a positive contribution to marketing if executed well. But, most companies struggle with it. In fact, many are starting to simply avoid it because it doesn’t deliver results for them. So if it doesn’t deliver to begin with, why would negativity phase a company or a brand like Apple?

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For example, 35% of B2B organizations (see above chart) still don’t see social media as critical for their business. Fifty six percent of large enterprise CMOs see social media as a key engagement channel, but that leaves 44% who don’t.

When the marketing blogger conversation becomes self serving and outraged in analyzing corporate social media failures, a problem develops. Instead of helping to diffuse best practices by showing pages and policies that successfully build brands and deliver ROI, we have blogodramas that hurt brands’ reputations (even the impact of these dramas is debatable). The problem is a self fulfilling one where companies are blasted for sucking, and feel no business need to become better. Companies see an unprofessional and dangerous conversation, and want no part of it.

“How audacious of these brands to suck! Bottom line? What’s that?”

It’s no secret that negativity drives traffic. But to become a better sector social media voices have to become teachers and lead. Leading means delivering how-tos, showing best practices, discussing how trends impact a company or nonprofit, and most importantly, demonstrating through practice how to get results.

Brands who fail are not audacious. Really, bad marketing is timeless and supersedes medium. No, the audacity to fail is a short-sighted view offered in the form of social media outrage over corporate failure. You heard my $0.02. What’s your view of social media wonks engaging in brand bashing?

I am on vacation this week. Michael Schechter, author of the outstanding “A Better Mess” blog, has agreed to guest comment on my behalf. Be good to him!