Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Taking Social Media Seriously

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about the perception of social media. This friend, who manages social media for a fairly large organization, shared that many of his coworkers viewed his role in the business as "cool, but kid stuff." I'm not sure how pervasive that attitude is, but I am sure that it absolutely has to change. In the past few weeks alone we have seen three great examples of what happens when you don't take social media seriously.

Many of us figured out long ago that "watching" an event via Twitter is often way more fun than watching the actual event. Patton Oswalt, for example, should be claiming his hilarious live tweeting of Downton Abbey to his million plus followers as an in-kind donation to PBS. I don't know anything about football, but I "watched" this year's Super Bowl on Twitter. Twitter is how I learned that Beyonce's ferocity had blown the power out at the Superdome. The power outage was an event no one could have anticipated, but the smart folks at Oreo (who had already spent plenty on their very funny "Cream or Cookie" ad) had their social media team ready and captured the outage with a simple but catchy tweet and photo:"You can still dunk in the dark." The post generated 15,000 retweets on Twitter and 5,500 shares and 19,000 likes on Facebook. Whether this will translate into increased sales, Oreo has definitely captured the buzz.

Fast forward to President Obama's State of the Union speech. Another huge Twitter event, with 1.36 million tweets using the hashtag #SOTU. During his response to the speech, Senator Marco Rubio experienced sudden clacky dry-mouth and reached awkwardly out of frame for a poorly placed and strangely tiny bottle of Poland Spring water. But unlike Team Oreo, who was ready to seize the moment, Team Poland Spring was nowhere to be seen. As it turns out, Poland Spring hasn't tweeted since 2010. Whoops! But since Twitter abhors a vacuum, this insta-meme prompted an immediate proliferation of parody accounts (@RubioH2OBottle) and hashtags (#watergate). Poland Spring did eventually update their Facebook page the following day, but there's no question that they missed an opportunity, handed to them on a silver platter, to highlight their brand.

Finally, my favorite story about the pitfalls of seeing social media as "kid stuff:" an epic, public Twitter rant written by a 21 year-old online marketing and social media planner as she's being laid off from HMV, a global entertainment retailer. Of course these tweets went viral instantly--how could they not? Horrifyingly poor judgment on all sides. Disgruntled and almost former employees, should you take your grievances to Twitter? No! HMV, should you entrust social media for your $1.5 billion dollar, 7000 employee global company to a 21 year-old? In the United States, 21 year-olds have just been granted the right to drink legally and still cannot rent a car, if you consider these to be valid milestones of responsibility.

Though I find these stories entertaining, I do wonder how many more I'll have to read before people start to get it--social media isn't kid stuff. This is business.

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