When Social Media Campaigns Go Bad

Filed as Guides on May 22, 2009 5:56 pm

Not everyone out there is a fan

Not everyone out there is a fan

I am a Starbucks fan, and I didn’t know any of the allegations being made … and ironically I think I would have never heard about this bad news stuff if it wasn’t for Starbucks social media campaign …

Starbucks idea was to allow the public to get involved in spreading the word via a Twitter hashtag. But, the public used the tools to spread a different word than the company was hoping for. Bloggasm tells it best

Those who posted the pictures to the microblogging site were to use predetermined hashtags that were listed in the contest rules.

Unfortunately for Starbucks, liberal activist and filmmaker Robert Greenwald, founder of Brave New Films, came across that Times article early Tuesday morning. Greenwald, who has directed films for major studios and launched Brave New Films a few years ago, had been working for months on shooting an anti-Starbucks video that debuted on YouTube that very day. The mini-documentary features interviews with several former and current Starbucks employees and makes the argument that the company — despite popular perception that it treats its employees well — has unfair labor practices and has aggressively fought off union organizing.

Any programmer will tell you to not entirely trust user generated input. Not everyone out there is your friend.

Perhaps this should be a warning that goes for Social Media also?

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  1. By Chris Bailey posted on May 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm
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    You may not “trust” that input, but you darn better listen to it and engage in dialogue about it. You’re right. Not everyone is your friend. Every single organization (business and nonprofit) has detractors. You can’t run from social media or talking to the world just because you’re afraid of what will be said. This is a chance for Starbucks to step out on the ledge and actually speak about these issues of labor practice. If they shy away from this opportunity, then they’re guilty of not only the accusation, but of continuing to think they control their brand image. Hopefully, they’ll wake up to the new reality of how to build better relationships with their customers and have civil dialogue with their detractors.

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  2. By Ian posted on May 22, 2009 at 7:31 pm
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    Ha,

    This sounds similar to the Telegraphs attempts at covering the budget using a Twitterfall

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/apr/21/telegraph-twitter-budget-twitterfall-embarrassment

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  3. By Chris Garrett posted on May 22, 2009 at 7:51 pm
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    Totally, this is an opportunity for Starbucks, they are in the spotlight and they can either stand there blinking or they can grab the mike.

    Now, addressing detractors is one thing, giving them a platform and visibility is quite another :)

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  4. By Mark Moline posted on May 22, 2009 at 11:56 pm
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    I agree wholeheartedly with Chris. Starbuck’s needs to tackle this head on and not make the mistake of ignoring its detractors. I’m not picking sides because I don’t know the facts. But, as Chris points out so eloquently, companies need to embrace the good and the bad when they get involved with social media.

    A companies ‘brand’ is simply the collective opinions of its supporters AND detractors. Companies can help shape that opinion, but only through proactive outreach and communication.

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  5. By Thom Stratton posted on August 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm
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    This is definitely a clear example of how companies may hold the bigger megaphone, but they no longer control the message. Conversations about their brand will happen regardless of what they do. The best they can do is monitor and respond. This example is extreme, but certainly something that companies should be prepared for. You are going to get negative feedback in your social media efforts. You can ignore it, view it as a threat, or view it as an opportunity. And be prepared to move very, very quickly.

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