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Don’t Blame Social Media

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I was reading an editorial by Jonah Bloom of Adage titled, “In a crisis, don’t get too distracted by Twitterati” in which he essentially says that social media people are the one’s that fuel the fire when brands screw up.

To which I might say, “What’s wrong with that”?

In the social media sphere, yes the mob mentality does it exist. And when things go awry for brands, bloggers and the Twitterati alike, will flock to the subject and beat it to death- points taken and noted. I get that.

But…

Saying that  Brand marketers can’t respond to the Twitterati and or bloggers “because of the incredulity and self importance of their wailing”, couldn’t be further from the point.

The problem is, brands are afraid to engage. They are afraid of putting a face to the brand, and they drag their feet. When in actuality they have the perfect vehicle to be proactive-social media. But instead they are still sitting around deciding whether they want to engage their users/consumers using social media.

What are you waiting on? A crisis?

Don’t blame the promoters and champions of social media for the mistakes that a brand makes. And don’t blame them for the mistakes that a brand continues to make after the fact.

Social media pundits, champions and promoters are just as quick to ask why a brand has not done something, as they are to point out when a brand does something great as well. In fact Peter Kim provides a huge list of companies enagaged in some aspect of social media. A positive.

Beth Harte just did an awesome post on a Dominos franchise that’s getting it right…another positive.

But I suppose that get’s overlooked since it’s an inconvenient truth.

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10 Responses to “Don’t Blame Social Media”


  1. 1 ecairn April 24, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Brands are afraid Yes. “Don’t understand it” that’s sure for most of them. Social media can’t be understood until you do it..it’s a bit like life!

    Fear is a big inhibitor of actions. When we fear, we freeze (a duck our head in the sand like ostriches). We fear the unknown. A little big of courage and logic is all it takes to overcome fear because most of the time, there’s much less to be afraid of after a few steps in the unknown.

    Go brand 😉 Jump in!

  2. 2 Danny Brown April 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    It’s definitely akin to a Catch 22 situation.

    Ina way, I completely agree with Jonah and his descriptions. There are too many “self-appointed experts and quarterbacks” who seem to take delight in things like this happening. It’s almost as if they want a brand to fail, just to show how social media could have made it all so different.

    On the flip side, there’s no doubting that social media can help the brand react quicker (or at least reach a wider audience) – although a lot of that will be down to the brand’s audience as well. (There’s no point tweeting your way out of a crisis if your core audience isn’t all that bothered about tech).

    Perhaps if we can reach a happy “middle ground” all round? There are lots of good that both sides can do working together, but they do actually need to work together.

    No cat-calling from the social media set, and no recriminations and blame from the other side either.

    Then again, maybe I’m just living in cloud cuckoo land… 😉

  3. 3 marc meyer April 24, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I look at it like this, Social media isn’t going anywhere, and in most cases neither are the big brands, so like you said, some middle ground, or some peace needs to be brokered. But still, brands are going to fault the social media community? For what? Ganging up? Perception isn’t always reality.

  4. 4 marc meyer April 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    @ecairn Fear, the great inhibitor to everything…fear of social media…? hmmmm…sounds odd to put the two together..

  5. 5 Mike Billeter April 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I would agree that social media has been one of the most open forms of media I’ve seen in terms of a willingness to share positive stories just as wholeheartedly as negative stories when it comes to a brand’s efforts online. However, in line with Jonah’s point in his article, I think the snowball effect still plays a more powerful role in the negative aspect of a brand crisis than the positive proactive efforts of a brand using social media.

    While I understand that they don’t directly correlate, I look at this situation in the same way I look at ESPN’s coverage of sports stories. When an athlete of any type in any sports puts forth a fantastic effort for a charity or for a child in the Make-A-Wish program, that story is typically covered in a touching, 3 or 4 minute segment on SportsCenter. People feel good, and they think, “That (Steve Nash, Sue Bird, etc.) seems like a pretty good person. I appreciate that he or she works hard to be a good role model.”

    Then the story is over. They move onto the commercial break or the next segment and the world continues.

    But when an athlete makes a big and surprising mistake (Michael Vick, Roger Clemens, etc.) it becomes a scandalous and outrageous news story that lasts days on end. Suddenly, 7 other story angles spin out of Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring (as, two or three days ago, ESPN ran a story on “The Dogs of Michael Vick” and their current owners…and the initial mania over that story occurred months ago).

    I feel like this is the fate brands suffer in the current online space. While their good works and efforts ARE unquestionably noted and appreciated by certain bloggers and online influencers, it seems that it’s usually the negative crises that get the general online population (think users who only follow their friends and celebrities) to take note rather than the positive praise that social media bloggers give to proactive brands.

    Regardless, you’re absolutely right that, while it’s not an easy battle, it’s still one that needs to be fought proactively if brands hope to have any respect in the online community in the event of a brand crisis. I would hope that the fear of a Domino’s crisis happening to them now inspires enough brands to get over their fear of jumping into the online space in the first place.

  6. 6 marc meyer April 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Mike, I agree. There was a book written by pete blackshaw titled “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000″ and thats pretty much the case here.

    Love this line you mention,”I would hope that the fear of a Domino’s crisis happening to them now inspires enough brands to get over their fear of jumping into the online space in the first place”. Thats a great point.

    Hey brands? are you listening?

  7. 7 jpancamo April 24, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I completely agree with the fact that companies are spending to much time debating about social media. In my eyes I see that if a company actually believes they have a good product and overall company then why would they even be concerned with it.

    The positive things are highly over looked. Both a positive and negative response take only one time to receive it as a label.

    Social media can not be blamed for a companies negative factors. Do people blame the news for the negative things that happen in the world? How is social media any different.

  8. 8 marc meyer April 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    What a great point,”Do people blame the news for the negative things that happen in the world? How is social media any different”? And you know what? It’s not, it’s the immediacy of it all that changes the landscape for some. But at the end of the day, it’s still communication, dialogue and people’s opinions and perceptions.

  9. 9 Dana Theus April 25, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    While I agree with a lot of your post, I will chime in here to remind us all that from the brand’s perspective, they have a lot at stake with their image across all audiences and channels. Yes, some of them are afraid to engage – or still clueless – but even those that want to have to be smart about how much effort they put into it vis a vis all their channels. This will differ by brand because some of their market segments are more sensitive to social media than others.

    My main point is that I don’t think it’s fair to paint them all with the “fear” brush without recognizing that they have legitimate concerns. And I think we in social media need to keep things in perspective and remember just because we can create a tweet storm within hours doesn’t mean all brands have to trip over themselves to appease us. To some of them we’re just not important enough market segments to demand their attention.

    BTW, this will change as the Gen Yers grow up, so I agree they need to get a clue quickly.

  10. 10 Tim Dempsey April 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    There can be no question that brands sitting on the sidelines are missing nothing but opportunity at exactly the time they should be doubling down their efforts to engage with buyers and prospective buyers.

    What the media (new or old) doesn’t seem to balance the dialogue with, IMHO, is the view (which I hold) that though buyers have taken control of information about brands with the adoption of new media, that does not absolve those buyers of responsibility when it comes to what they say about brands. Absolutely no harm done in truthful instantaneous global communication about the Domino’s prank, and hats off to Domino’s for their swift response.

    But someday, a buyer is going to screw it up, libel a brand, and be held accountable. That will be a wake-up call.


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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