The Growing Power of Social Media


Yeah, I'm Social Media.

Social media must be feeling a lot like the Man of Steel lately.

Invincible.

Bullet-proof.

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The growing power and influence of the web – because of social media – has been on full display this week.  Technologies like Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are continuing to mature and showed this week what happens when an idea, a truth or even a lie becomes viral and spreads around the globe like wildfire in a matter of minutes and hours.  For those who think social media is a fad or trivial (are there any left?), then there was ample evidence to contrary this week – specifically the stores of Domino’s Pizza and Amazon.com.

Here is what happened.

Domino’s Gets Blindsided

Domino’s Pizza finds itself embroiled in a public relations crisis as a result of two reckless employees and a video camera.  As the New York Times notes: “As Domino’s is realizing, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises.”

Two employees pretended to make sandwiches after stuffing cheese up their nose (among other things).  They video taped it and posted it on YouTube.  The video has since been removed, but not before being watched by more than one million people.  The topic of just how clean Domino’s food is also went hog-wild on Twitter.  The two employees have been fired – and arrested.  And Domino’s finds itself with its back against the wall.

Here’s Tim McIntyre from Domino’s quoted in the Times article: “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea. Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair.”

He’s right.  It isn’t fair. But Domino’s made a fatal error in deciding against reacting or commenting on the video – hoping the controversy would go away.  It also appears they aren’t even monitoring social media channels.  That was a big mistake.  While people were asking what the company was going to do – Domino’s remained quiet.  So speculation, rumor and nastiness filled the void and the incident became a mushroom cloud.  Domino’s should have aggressively attacked the video’s creditability and immediately responded to the criticism.

Domino’s has finally reacted – and its now doing some smart things (like posting a video response from its CEO).  Hopefully, the enormous damage done to Domino’s – in only a matter of days – can be undone just as fast.

Amazon.com Gets Whacked

Even a social media powerhouse like Amazon.com can get crushed by the sudden onslaught of social media.  The company got caught up in a Twitter storm early this week – accused of being homophobic and anti-homosexual.  The slow response by Amazon to the charges let the controversy spiral out of control and the damage was done before the company reacted.  It’s still dealing with the fallout.

Here’s what happened.  When a gay author noticed that many gay and lesbian themed books had disappeared from sales rankings at Amazon, including his own, he wrote for an explanation.  Amazon responded, according to the New York Times, saying: “The company was excluding “ ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best-seller lists.”  The author posted his outrage on his blog.

The online world went nuts – and Twitter led the charge.  Angry Twitterers used the hashtag #amazonfail at the end of tweets.  They accused Amazon.com of labeling gay and lesbian literature offensive and therefore of censorship.  It appears as it was simply ““an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error,” according to Amazon.  I believe them.

But the damage was done – and again a slow response by Amazon allowed conspiracies and rumor to overtake the truth.  In fact, gay writers started a boycott of Amazon and their petition collected more than 18,000 names.  How a company raised in the digital era could have blunder so badly is anyone’s guess.

On a side note, media pundit Clay Shirky has an excellent post on the incident at his blog defending Amazon from being anti-gay.  I wholehearted agree.  But even Shirky admits that Amazon’s handling of the incident was, in his words, “stupid.”

Ready, Set, Go

These two incidents show that corporations can’t fool around anymore.  They need social media strategies.  In the very least, companies should be monitoring social media channels to see what people are saying about them, their competitors and their industry (Radian6 is a great place to start). They should also be hiring experts internally to help with social media – teaching their executives, PR and marketing teams how to respond and interact with customers, clients and the general public.  Certainly, they should have a social media crisis plan in place.

The time is now.  Just ask Domino’s Pizza and Amazon.com.

UPDATE: Domino’s now has a Twitter account.

6 Responses to “The Growing Power of Social Media”

  1. Hi George,

    I am going to have to disagree with you about Domino’s reaction to the viral video. Tim McIntyre, VP of Communications released two letters detailing the incident and ensuring Domino’s customers that this is an isolated incident and Domino’s will take the appropriate action to fire and arrest the two employees.

    Along with the letters, Mr. McIntyre also worked to have the video pulled from as many online video sites as possible. Brian Solis of the PR 2.0 blog (www.briansolis.com) has a post with Mr. McIntyre’s letters.

    I agree with you that Domino’s could have acted much quicker if they were properly prepared for a digital media crisis. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call the many other food businesses and any company in general that has not recognized the enormous amount of influence that exists in the social media and digital environments.

    Best,

    Rich

  2. Hi Rich:
    I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with me about. The only criticism I have for Domino’s is its slow reaction once the video became viral and you seem to agree with me there.

    As I mention in the post, they are now taking an aggressive approach to dealing with the incident. And I hope they win people over because blaming Domino’s for the behavior of these two employees is ridiculous.

    And as a side note: I think Domino’s makes a great pizza and will continue to patronize their establishments.

  3. Hi George,

    Sorry, I misread your post. I guess what I was getting at was, for not being prepared to handle digital media crises, the response was not all that slow. If they were prepared, the response would have been much quicker. But for what they did, in the time they did it in, the response was effective and appropriate.

    I’m sure they’ll win the customers back too. It is ridiculous to blame an entire company for two employees acting like buffoons.

    Best,

    Rich

  4. Social media has made any crisis go from airplane speed to rocket fast. The amazing thing about both the Domino’s and Amazon.com stories is just how quickly they exploded.

  5. viral smiral….

    the danger lies in the next Charles Manson inspiring idiots thru viral video…

    it has the power to change and also the power to poison minds….

    people are going to have HAVE to learn to think for themselves.

  6. In the shadow of this, there’s hero of Far Cry 4, Ajay Ghale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: