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From Defense to Offense

September 26, 2012

Social media can be a great tool for growing a company’s influence as well as its reputation among the community. However, it can also be used to destroy companies, and before they realize what is happening, it is too late to correct the problem. In trying to tie all these readings together, this is the common theme I settled on. Let’s begin with the famous wedding video.

In June 2009, there was a wedding, and in that wedding, the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced down the aisle to the song Forever, by the artist Chris Brown……everyone who just read that last sentence knows exactly what I am talking about (if not, take a look Now, much speculation has been made about whether this video going viral was manufactured or not. The answer is, yes, it was manufactured. So, rather than reiterating all the details from the article “The JK Wedding Dance video was real; the viral effect was manufactured,” I want to just point out briefly why I am almost positive it was manufactured. The most referred to conspiracy was that the audio quality in the video was too good for a small video camera to capture, and most people have come to the conclusion that the music was added post-production. Why, or better yet, who would do that? 

In February of 2009, Chris Brown, the artist of the song featured in the video, turned himself in to the LAPD, charged with making criminal threats after a woman involved with an incident with him had sustained visible injuries. He immediately began losing endorsements, and in June he plead guilty to a felony charge. Would engineering this video and making it become viral not only generate revenue for his record label, but also resurrect his career after all the headlines he was a part of for the five months prior to pleading guilty? That’s by far one of the most believable conspiracy theories I have read on the subject.

This example gets me to the points I want to make about how one can use other people’s media (i.e. photos, music, videos, tweets, etc.) for either generating their own personal gain, or for generating negative press regarding others. How about the two examples from “Community Relations 2.0?” In one example, one of Comcast’s snoozing technicians became a viral video sensation, and that video resulted in widespread negative publicity. Or what about the blog rant by the low-level employee from Kaiser Permanente that disrupted a multibillion-dollar IT rollout, as well as ended up on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal? These are just two examples of how sources of media (in these cases a video and a blog) were used to shine a negative light on large corporations.

People in today’s world are able to be a part of online communities, and thus feel they are a part of these corporations more so than if they were just the average customer who did business with the corporations, but had no interaction other than that. I think there are two things that corporations can do to mitigate the risks involved with today’s social media attacks, and play a little social media defense.

1) Maintain online community involvement. Time-Life was able to reduce the negative impacts of three Greenpeace activists who managed to get their message across from a 15 minute protest, by influencing the Time Magazine cover, simply by acknowledging the concerns of the activists and taking action to research the issues causing those concerns.

2) Monitor the content that is being shared within online communities. I believe that much of the negative publicity that results from social media applications could be prevented with dedicated resources to monitoring what information is being shared about a company in the social realms, and working to reduce the amount of this material that goes “viral.” People of greater influence have a better chance of changing someone’s perceptions about a company, and I think this is where being a large part of applicable online communities can really benefit these corporations.

In all, I don’t see these social media attacks going away at any point in the near future, and I strongly believe they will continue to get worse before they ever seem to dissipate. However, I do believe there are many avenues for companies to mitigate risks that result in the negate publicity they face each and every day.


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  1. Great blog and I enjoyed your perspective. Maybe a reason the music was added post-production was because you couldn’t hear it that well and the wedding party wanted people to enjoy the song. I don’t think that necessarily makes it a fake produced by the record label. Aside from that, the power of social media to generate small communities and spread ideas and information like wildfire amazes me. Of course you need issues or content that relates to more than just a few people to really take off, but the potential is scary. It will be interesting to see how much money is invested in social media departments by larger corporations over the years. Brand management is definitely important especially when competing for significant market share.

  2. I don’t really agree with you that the video was manufactured. Regardless of whether it was manufactured or not, this video very well could have resurrected Chris Brown’s career. Its amazing to see what goes viral and what people enjoy watching. Take another song & video for example. The Harvard Baseball team’s video of Call Me Maybe had a huge part in the song’s success.
    I don’t think a company should really monitor their name over social media. Isn’t that the whole point of free speech? In order to protect itself, a company should simply make great products and remain ethical This would alleviate a lot of the negative feelings.

  3. adilley permalink

    This has happened so many times in the entertainment industry. Why is it that they feel the need to unleash drama to get the public’s attention? It is because that is what we want. We want to gossip, we like to see that these people are just like us. They screw up and are not always glamorous. Then we like to see them overcome their obstacles and continue on making more music or movies.

    Also, These stars are marketers. The market their-selves. They put themselves in this position, or tabloids spread word about them and they have to turn around and do the same thing a business would do, apologize, admit your wrong, damage control, if you will. They work with non-profits, community work, use their story to sell their records. It is just the same strategic move businesses do, except, I don’t think businesses fall intentionally.

    Thanks for the post.

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