Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Media is Not a Panacea

Just because engagement is the new metric in advertising circles, doesn’t mean all the numbers point upward. There is risk involved when companies and organizations embrace new media; social media are no panacea. Take two recent cases in which Nestles and Kmart were attacked for disparate reasons, but attacked nevertheless. In the case of Nestles, the issue revolved around the company’s use of palm oil in its products for which an attack was launched by the environmental group Greenpeace. With regard to Kmart, the issue revolved around an online coupon that consumers thought could be utilized at any Kmart store; turns out they couldn’t, turns out it could only be used at select stores. Perhaps you wouldn’t think something like this would make consumers angry, but it did. I’ve provide a link to an article on The Consumerist so you can read some of the vitriolic comments. What’s the take away? The good news is that social media provide consumers with a direct way to communicate with the company, and in turn a company or organization can evaluate how they are doing in the public’s eye. On the other hand, consumers and other groups can band together to launch an attack on the brand. For professional communicators, the issue is how to manage all of this. As social media a relatively new for many companies and organizations, it’s important to understand fully their implications in marketing communication programs, and remember that measurement is not always in the upward direction.


kmhorvath said...

This class discussion about Kmart and the coupon was very interesting. It just went to show how careful companies have to be when they are putting deals/coupons out there. Looking at the feedback that Kmart got after this coupon was not valid in all the stores, it seems that some people who had an experience with this coupon not working may be inclined to shop elsewhere. Although it was not such a huge deal in the scheme of things, it might have hurt Kmart in a small way.

nbriverso said...

I think the importance of social media as a means of advertising and increasing awareness for companies and their products is very obvious. I feel like I can’t go to a company’s website today without seeing a “follow us on facebook, twitter, youtube, flickr.” It really does provide companies a way to increase awareness to vast amounts of people in an easy effective way. However, during the class discussion, after reading some of the comments people wrote to Kmart and even Toyota, I think social media sites have to be considered for their negative aspects as well. Especially since most people usually only become motivated to write something or speak up when they have a negative experience. Feedback can obviously help a company improve, but too much negative feedback, especially on these sites that everyone views, can create negative images and reputations around companies.