The Victorian Taxi Association (VTA) recently ran a Social Media campaign that succeeded in amplifying their weaknesses while promoting their direct competitor’s strengths — Uber’s. It was such an epic failure that they probably would’ve been better off just depositing their campaign budget into Uber’s marketing account.
In brief, VTA wanted to try and win back some ground from Uber. So they launched a nice new website and some new Social Media accounts. Then they foolheartedly asked people to share their taxi stories.
— yourtaxis (@yourtaxis) November 9, 2015
Not surprisingly, people did:
— Leigh Stillard (@LeighStillard) November 9, 2015
— Patrick Webster (@aushack) November 10, 2015
@yourtaxis Every single woman I know has, at some point, been sexually/verbally abused by a cabbie & now every single woman I know uses uber
— imogen baker (@bakerishh) November 10, 2015
— mrkade (@mrkade) November 10, 2015
— Tom Whitty (@twhittyer) November 10, 2015
And on and on it went. It was quickly labelled the “marketing fail of the year”.
The VTA’s mistake serves as an important lesson: Social Media is an AMPLIFIER. Like an amplifier in a hi-fi system, social media will pick up an organisation’s signals and multiply them across the Networks. The signals are the crucial factor. Not the marketing signals, but the experience signals. How people actually experience the product. How people actually experience the service. These can not be hidden from Social Networks. It’s these experiences that people talk about.
If you have poor customer service, it will be amplified. If you have a bad product, it will be amplified
Social Networks are highly attuned to the signals an organisation puts out and they react accordingly. If a product is faulty or service experience is poor, people often turn to Social Media to vent. With a swift and sincere response organisations can, and often do, turn complaints around and come out looking good. In this way, progressive organisations are using Social Networks as a rapid feedback mechanism for continuous improvement.
Big problems are encountered however when organisations with poor products or customer service take to social media and try to use the networks to promote themselves. It is perceived as a bad signal. A fake. Something discordant. Contagions like #YourTaxis quickly break out as people collectively vent and punish the brand for its behaviour. Herding mentality takes over, a hashtag goes viral and the brand gets utterly trampled.
In digital transformation, Social Media amplification effects must inform strategy. It is counterproductive to use Social Media for promotion if fundamental product or customer service issues exist. Fix them first, or make serious progress towards fixing them, before asking Social Networks to assist with promotion. Conversely, if your products and customer services ars great, if they are industry-leading, then you should leverage Social Media as much as possible.
If you have great customer service, it will be amplified. If you have a great product, it will be amplified.
VTA and their drivers are in a very tough position. Their market is being eaten by Uber. They are seen as having a poor product and providing poor service.
110% of their effort should be going into innovating around better product and service. If they can succeed in that, then maybe Social Networks will be kinder to them.
John Dobbin is a digital transformation consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Link In via: https://au.linkedin.com/in/johndobbin
This article was originally published on Medium. You can read the original here.
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