Social Media Marketing: A Two-Way Street-Nazar Kamangar/bridge consulting blogs
Marketing has existed in some form since there were products and services to market, but it is a chameleonic presence. Social media marketing has its roots in more traditional marketing, but is so highly evolved that it may seem unrecognizable to marketers who have been around since before the digital revolution. As Debbie Miller of Social Hospitality pointed out in a recent guest article on Forbes, social media is a conversation, and not a one-way communication. Traditional marketing techniques will not boost your social media credibility if there is no back and forth.
One of the best things a company can do is listen to its consumers’ responses to a marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter how well you think you are presenting your message; if customers respond negatively, it’s not having the right effect. While it can be demoralizing to hear you are on the wrong track, learning to respond positively to valid customer criticisms will ultimately strengthen your relationship with them. Companies that respond defensively can lose the chance to make the relationship right, and alienate their customers forever. Here are some examples of how companies that have responded to social media pushback with varying levels of success.
Early this month, the snack food brand partnered with Ashton Kutcher on a series of viral videos intended to parody a dating site. He played several characters, including an Indian character. The brownface and thick accent did not go over well. Tech entrepreneur Anil Dash has a very thoughtful analysis of why the ad is so offensive, starting with the fact that it isn’t even funny or clever. The response to the widespread customer upset was okay, but not great. CEO Keith Belling posted a seemingly sincere, but ultimately tepid apology that doesn’t necessarily make it seem like he got the point. However, he apparently reached out via telephone to Dash, and whatever he said seems to have won Dash over. The offensive ad has been removed, but the rest of the campaign remains online.
During the 2011 Super Bowl, Groupon hoped to make a splash with a very pricey ad campaign that would send up celebrity activism, and inspire people to donate to help various philanthropic causes (for instance, helping Tibetan refugees). The resulting ads missed the mark by a mile, making it look as though Groupon was turning tragedy into a marketing opportunity. The backlash was quick and vocal. To his defense, Groupon’s CEO posted a detailed and thoughtful response to the campaign’s detractors. He explained what their goal had been without getting defensive, and apologized sincerely. Perhaps realizing they’d be under the microscope, Groupon decided against putting together a new Super Bowl campaign the following year.
Sometimes a company decides not to pull ads in the face of customer complaints. This is often not a good call, but in the case of JC Penney, it was absolutely the right thing to do. In this case, the complaining customers were a conservative group called One Million Moms who threatened to boycott JC Penney if they didn’t fire their new spokesperson, openly gay comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. In this case, the company decided it was worth alienating a bigoted group of consumers, and stood behind their decision to hire DeGeneres. The anti-gay group quietly dropped their boycott a month later when they failed to draw the attention or support they had sought.