Social Media – Effectiveness Depends on Point of View

Flicking through the pages of a PRWeek advertising supplement – it was the Corporate Affairs one – and came across an article by Colin Byrne.

(And no, contrary to what you might expect, I’m not going to have a go at these trivial exercises in self-publicity and ask why do what appear to be otherwise quite sensible people insist on perpetuating their existence by agreeing to participate and paying for the privilege. No – this time I shall demonstrate some restraint.)

The article was, in summary, about the danger to corporate reputation presented by the rise of social media and the fact that guarding against it – or being prepared to guard against it – is now a fact of business life. It also plugged a recent Weber Shandwick (Mr Byrne is CEO, UK and Europe, Weber Shandwick) study – Risky Business: Reputations Online – which I am delighted to re-plug here. Should you so wish, I am certain that Weber Shandwick will be delighted to furnish you with a copy of the study (and some salient advice to go with it), in the same way that I am certain that PRWeek will furnish you with a copy of their Corporate Affairs advertising supplement. For a small consideration.

In the article, Mr Byrne referenced the now-infamous Domino’s Pizza incident, in which a group of employees filmed themselves abusing ingredients and posted the result on YouTube. He suggests, rightly, that ‘reputation assassins in their many shapes and forms are hard at work out there and the real test is how the incident is subsequently handled’.

So far, so good. A description of Domino’s response follows – apparently ‘instead of issuing press releases and back-pedalling to limit the reputational damage, Domino’s released an apologetic YouTube video response featuring company president Patrick Doyle, and set up a Twitter page to answer customer queries’.

Thing is, blog snorkellers, Mr Byrne seems to think this is a good response.  Now, I could be misinformed and my memory could be playing tricks, but as I remember it, it took Domino’s an unconscionable amount of time to do anything at all about the incident – whether on social media or otherwise – and this delay was not seen as a good thing.

Regardless of whether that is the case or not – the incident, which started out on YouTube, rapidly went mainstream and (given that not everyone is plugged into social media, and not everyone has internet access) many thousands of people will have heard about it via broadcast and print without ever having seen the offending film.

By not issuing a press release (hell – I’d have gone further and taken out some tactical ads) and restricting themselves to Twitter (4,412 followers) and Facebook (312,645 fans), Domino’s missed a chunk of their audience, and only semi-addressed the issue. This is the problem with taking the ‘social-only’ route, or giving undue prominence to social in the communications mix. It doesn’t work in isolation. Can’t.

So – the Domino’s issue. Same incident. Same response. Different views on it and – therefore – different views on the effectiveness of social as a whole. Take your pick.

(By the way – the last comment on the Domino’s Facebook page reads “EWWWWWWW THE NEW SALAMI AT DOMINOS IS FUCKING SHITHOUSE. IT TASTES LIKE SOMEONES ARSE!!!!!!!YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK.” Makes you wonder why they bother. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion – but I think I’d rather gather it through customer research, myself.)

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