On the second Wednesday of each month, DFWSEM (Dallas-Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association) presents a social and networking event, complete with a speaker who can hold the attention of a hungry after-work crowd. They were fortunate enough to persuade Andy Beal, from the UK via NC, to take the lectern this month.
Ukulele addict and online reputation management (“ORM”) expert Beal presented Reputation Roadkill — Learning from the ‘OMG’ Moments of the Biggest Brands. His examples were both international and capable of inducing winces before he concluded with some cases of companies handling social media challenges right.
He began with some statistics: 83% of corporations will encounter hits to their reputations in the next five years, and 87% of consumers will associate the reputation of a CEO or other leader with the reputation of their company. A reminder that could’ve helped the first of Beal’s examples, Satya Nadella.
In October of 2014, after having been Microsoft CEO for less than a year, Nadella was asked for his advice to women who are uncomfortable requesting raises. His response, that women shouldn’t ask but rather rely on the system and karma, was more than a little controversial, and caused a social media backlash. Beal’s takeaway from this was simple: You only have one reputation. The public will connect leadership’s views and statements with the company, whether you want them to or not.
Beal’s second example was Uber’s Emil Michael. At a party, Michael suggested to a journalist that Uber should hire a team with a million dollar budget to delve into the personal lives and backgrounds of journalists who wrote unfavorably about the company. The resulting controversy made front page news, despite Michael’s defense that he thought he was speaking off the record. The lesson here is simple: You are always being judged. There’s no such thing as off the record, especially in social media.
That’s a lesson Emma Way, Beal’s third example, would have done well to remember. The trainee accountant drove away from an accident during which she struck a cyclist on a narrow country lane in Norfolk. Hours later, she tweeted, “Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way – he doesn’t even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists” The cyclist was fine. Way, however, discovered that the police also have access to Twitter. She had to go to court, she lost her job, and she told the press her tweet was the biggest regret of her life. Lesson? Don’t be a schmuck.
There followed several more examples of media and social media blunders, including DiGiorno’s ill-advised attempt to use a trending tag to draw attention to their product without checking to see that #WhyIStayed was a discussion of domestic violence. But then Beal moved on to examine what companies are doing social media right.
When Chevrolet sent regional zone manager Rikk Wilde to present a Chevy Colorado to Madison Bumgarner, MVP of the 2014 World Series, they didn’t send him with a script. He stammered through 58 agonizing seconds of airtime, famously explaining the high-end features of the vehicle as, “technology and stuff” in front of an audience of millions. A meme-savvy audience of millions. The results were predictable.
Rather than issue a stuffy corporate statement or ignore the entire event, Chevy pounced. They ran with the #technologyandstuff hashtag, adding it to their home page, to commercials, and even to the sides of the Chevy Colorados used by NASCAR drivers before the following race. By embracing and improvising, they made lemonade out of a social media lemon, winning free advertising across not only Twitter, but traditional media when news programs covered the phenomenon. They wrapped the campaign after five days, but the company estimated they received roughly $5 million in free publicity.
Beal closed with a few audience questions, and a reminder that proactive ORM is better than reactive. As a friend puts it in his book, Repped: 3o Days to a Better Online Reputation, there is no point in eating healthy during the heart attack. A topic on which our own Chris Silver Smith has blogged recently.
DFWSEM also announced that their annual State of Search meeting will not be held in the usual hotel, but will take advantage of Dallas’ downtown resurgence by holding the event in Deep Ellum. Next month’s meeting will feature Matt Wallaert, a behavioral psychologist and entrepreneur currently at Microsoft, who will be presenting on the vagaries of human decision making. It will be another can’t miss.