The Future of Social Media – Brand Bullying?

Sometimes social media sucks; especially when someone who knows how to use it decides that they don’t like you.  Most of the time this doesn’t get past the general passive-aggressive comment in a status update:

But what happens when they get real, and they decide to name names?

Usually this is funny for a moment, and then you laugh and thank your stars that YOUR friends would never act that reckless online….would they?

Big Brands Act Small

What if larger brands used social media the same way a vindictive 16 year old would?  What if one billion dollar brand used a social platform to smash another brands face in…something like:

When I looked at this video, I was shocked…but for the wrong reasons.  Everyone was in arms about Nestle, and their reckless response to the fan page “hazing” that Greenpeace did, but my attention was on something completely different.  Greenpeace just bullied a multi-million dollar corporation into bending to its will.  And with recent news of Nestle’s caving to the pressure, an uncomfortable trend will now gain even more steam in the future.

Brand Bullying: The Way To Get What You Want Online

I know what you’re thinking…who cares, Nestle is a multi-million dollar corporation, and they can handle a little dirt.  Can you?  Let’s have this same conversation about two hair salons in Columbus, OH.

Neslte giving in to Greenpeace’s demands was the equivalent of giving a child a treat for acting out in public. Greenpeace decided that they needed to use Nestle as an example, and unfortunately Nestle succumbed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-orangutan. Nor am I anti-environment. There is an issue when social media is used to attack an organization to get a result that you may not have gotten through regular channels. Some may applaud Greenpeace for its resourcefulness, but I think we’re walking on a landmine.

Let’s Take is Local

I know what you’re thinking…who cares, Nestle is a million dollar corporation, and they can handle a little dirt.  Can you?  Let’s have this same conversation about two hair salons in Columbus, OH.

Salon one is angry at salon two for not being “green” enough.  Salon two makes a video about salon one’s products boiling out their customers’ hair, and being made with all sorts of chemicals that plan to do harm to the environment (and your skin!).  This video is posted on Youtube.

Salon two also sends their fans to make negative comments on their competitions fan page.  Assuming that the page manager is no stronger than the manager from Nestle’s page (definitely not 360 Social ) an online argument would ensue, possible escalating to some press on the nightly news locally.

Can salon one handle the negative branding and the possible loss of business, online fans, and probably their product lines if they cave into the pressure?  Remember, solo brands are not huge corporations.  They’re families, individuals trying to succeed and build legacies.  They have goals and aspirations to be a big company but at any time a small business can be derailed by the slightest amount of negative press.  The precedent of bullying brands into change has to stop before it trickles down to smaller brands where the effects can be disastrous.

The Real Issue With Brand Bullying

Never before have brands had the power to move so many without financial cost.  Those who bore ill will had to think about investing $100K into a TV smear campaign to release their anger.  Unfortunately, the digital age has made it all too easy to release your emotions to the world.  And as individuals, there’s no issue, it may even be healthy.  But en masse, the detriment can be fatal for a new brand.

Social Media is an amazing tool to allow customers of brands to spread both good and bad experiences, we welcome it with open arms.  What it shouldn’t bring is the ability to unfairly use PR to bend brands to an individualistic will.

With all that beign said, the real problem comes down to the people themselves.  If no one will do the simple research to find out that the company that Greenpeace was rallying against was less than 2% of Nestle’s oil supply, they REALLY won’t think twice about believing that your small-time brand in your city is guilty of whatever a brand bully is saying.  Bad news not only spreads twice as fast as good news, but it’s also twice as sticky.  In our next blog, we’ll go over the way to defend against Brand Bullying.

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