03 Apr 2013
By Wright Communications
With close to 400 million tweets pinged over the web each day, and more than a billion Facebook accounts registered, it is tempting to think that our smallest utterances or thoughts will remain confined to the tiny sliver of the digital world that we inhabit.
We may think that even if we have followers, or a customer base that we feed our messages to, that the channels of distribution are defined and discrete.
But we know it ain't so - and what is constantly amazing is the number of people who throw caution to the wind, tweet or post something without thinking through the ramifications, and have to live with some pretty negative consequences.
One of the most dangerous of those being that customers in the digital world don't just passively consume messages - they bite right back.
The Domino's Pizza chain, which operates in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, had a taste of how things could go sour in March when it whipped everyone into a frenzy of expectancy over what it called its "biggest announcement in 20 years".
When the biggest changes in pizza known to mankind turned out to be square bases and a new range of toppings, the company's trumpeting of a #gamechanger looked rather pathetic. And its internet audience was not backward in coming forward with its condemnation, accusing Domino's of all sorts of flim-flammery and downright "sh*te" marketing.
Admittedly it's multi-million profits may not be entirely endangered as a result, but who wants to take the risk? With a business model that embraces the youth-oriented online world to a large degree, Domino's can't afford to look like spoons. In the language of the day, we might even be tempted to call it an #epicfail.
We could also apply that unkind hash-tag to rapper Scribe, who injudiciously questioned what cricketer Jesse Ryder had done to deserve an almost fatal beating outside a McDonalds in Christchurch in late March.
Scribe had to quickly eat his words as the wrath of thousands of fans piled into him (over Twitter) for his outbursts, which were considered highly inappropriate as Ryder lay in intensive care in Christchurch hospital.
Ryder is now up and walking around his hospital room - thank goodness - and even able to give a gentle ribbing (also over Twitter) back to the big-mouthed rapper: "thanks again to everyone for the support - especially my good mate Scribe" was his most recent message.
But it may not be before some pretty fatal damage is inflicted on Scribe's career. The fact is, his fan base is young and online. It pays attention to what entertainers say. It also tends to have quite the group mentality: once momentum for (or against) something is building, it's hard to stop - or even control.
The lessons for business here are, as always, stark. Clearly defined boundaries and policies for social media use by a company and its representatives are key, as fuddy-duddy as they may seem.
Within a company or organisation, it pays to have a few people who are the guardians of that entity's online reputation, ensuring communications match the organisation's goals and aspirations, and actively working to mitigate misfires.
Hype and hyperbole will always be called out.
Damage limitation is, like everything in PR, also critical. When something goes wrong, you want a strategy in hand that can be executed quickly. This is particularly where outside expertise can come in handy - the person who can think of every ramification of what needs rectifying, across every platform, and with every tool available.
Expertise in a broad range of social media is a must-have, whether you are dealing with #everydaystuff or a highly anticipated #gamechanger. After all, you want to be known to be brilliant, rather than #BRILLIANT.
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