Monday, 19 January 2009

How to generate word of mouth....FAIL

Belkin's horrible cock-ups that came to light over the weekend are a timely warning of how not to use the internet to generate conversations. If you are the sort of person who doesn't spend their weekend reading Mashable and you've missed the story, this is the gist of it
(Screengrab nicked from Engadget, as the original has been swiftly deleted)
Someone employed by Belkin posted the above on Amazon's Mechanical Turk developer marketplace, essentially offering $0.65 per post to write 5 star reviews of Belkin products, and rate down any less positive reviews. Besides the obvious dumbness of not even trying to disguise the deception, this does raise a couple of other issues:

First, tech companies have less room for mistakes when learning in public, as the po
tential customers they are trying to influence (often by way of tech bloggers) are so aware of marketing generally and social media ethics in particular.

Secondly the brazen nature of this request (even using his real name - not that hiding it would make it any less wrong, just less dumb) suggests that he really may not have been aware of what he was doing - potentially thinking that this might help Belkin rather than being his last act in their employment (probably). As a firm believer in Rohit Bhargava's thoughts on the power of the accidental spokesperson, I think this really highlights the importance of training throughout an organisation on dealing with power of the internet. While there are lots of examples of best practice, I'd recommend the version of Porter Novelli's that Mat Morrison shared last year as a good place to start.

For what it's worth, this is the grovel/apology from the president of Belkin. And this is the proof of how easy it is to generate online conversations if you screw up


john v willshire said...

So a viable strategy for 2009 could be...

i) do something bad

ii) watch the buzz build around it

iii) grovelling over-apologise, showing what nice, real people you are

iv) everyone remembers you for being nice, real people, and forgets the bad thing you did in the first place...

owenblacker said...

Cynical as all hell, Mr Willshire, but I'm inclined to agree :o)

Graeme Wood said...

so cynical John.... but that's what got Comcast and Dell on Twitter, and it seems to be working fine there.

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