Interesting Thought Experiment

Let’s say you work at the world’s leading online retailer in the corporate comms department. You are tech savvy and love Web 2.0. In fact, your organization is one of the best examples of a Web 2.0 site – as people use and interact with your site, it gets smarter and provides more relevant suggestions to its users. How awesome is that?!

Because you’re Web savvy and love 2.0 you have subscribed to all sorts of RSS feeds for online mentions of the organization’s name across a bunch of popular Web 2.0 communities – and even some that aren’t that popular. Because your employer is the world‘s leading retailer, there is a lot of noise and, while your RSS reader doesn’t update in real time, you do get hundreds if not thousands of updates that you diligently read (or scan if you’re busy) even if they aren’t all in your native language, which is (urgh) American English.

Because you’re employed by the world’s leading online retailer, you work pretty damn hard so last weekend you decide that instead of checking your feeds twice a day for any issue, you’ll check it once a day. You know you’ll get absolutely hammered by the number of mentions but you think spending time with your family is *pretty* important.

You check on Saturday and while there is a tonne of new stuff to catch up on, it seems pretty benign so you scan it and get back to the weekend.


But then you get a frantic call from your boss: “Do a search for #amazonfail on Twitter search” she says. And your weekend’s done.

How come you didn’t see this? Because Twitter search only shows you the exact search terms. Check out a search done seconds after the above search for #amazonfail:


None of the stuff from the first is in the second.

My point is this:

Online monitoring is almost essential. I completely agree on this and have just spent a couple of days defining the com.motion online monitoring product for our clients and for Veritas Communications’ clients as well. However, there will always be holes in the process. Search terms can and will fall through the cracks. Twitter is a great example: you cannot possible be expected to set up search terms for hash tags that simply put aren’t even in existence yet. So let’s not make a mountain out of molehill.

Matt Dickman has an interesting take on this but I would implore him to think about the practicalities and criticising an organization with such broad strokes.

And when you find this groundswell, what to do about it? You don’t want to die a death by a thousand cuts by constantly releasing new (and incomplete) information. Perhaps silence is a good thing and, again, not to be criticised by the (self appointed) Web 2.0 great and the good out to make a name for themselves and perhaps scare some organizations into becoming new clients. Perhaps a billion dollar company has a duty to shareholders to a) find out what the problem is and b) start to fix it before communicating with its stakeholders. Ben McConnell says that silence breeds suspicion but what price not having a clue and having to release piecemeal, incomplete and contradictory statements. (sorry, I do not have as good a way with words as Ben)

Days on, and we still do not know exactly what went down, although rumours abound as to the exact origin.

I’m not saying the Amazon should be praised for how they dealt with the situation but I would, once again, ask the social media club to stop jumping onto every pile-on they see. That’s how molehills become mountains.


One Response to Interesting Thought Experiment

  1. Rayn@ says:

    Indeed an Interesting Thought Experiment! Great post!

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