My interview with Jeff Ullrich of Earwolf
Since 1988, NBC has been where Americans go to get their Olympics coverage. It’s no secret that this incredibly lucrative contract, obtained during the network’s glory days, has led the broadcaster to think they are “unkillable,” (despite being 4th in the network wars.)
This theory was seriously tested this past weekend.
You see, NBC has always had a tape delay to bring a compact, clean package of coverage for the sports it televises. This has served them well in the past, but in a social media world, they can’t afford to keep this bad idea around.
It seems the broadcaster, who boasts how “plugged in” they are (NBC, after all is an investor and content provider for Hulu, the streaming service which is extremely popular un the US.) hasn’t quite jumped the chasm of knowing social media exists, and understanding how unbelievable crucial a proper social media strategy needs to inform their broadcast.
Right from the first Hobbitesque frame of the opening ceremonies Friday (on a delay 4 hours after it had been broadcast EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD) the twitterverse was not best pleased. You see, Americans had been reading tweets all afternoon describing the ceremonies. There were pictures being posted as-it-happened, and there was even a complete video on Youtube of the 7/7 tribute which NBC did not air.
And, yet, they still didn’t get it. Their response to the negative sentiment?
Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer for NBCNews and MSNBC thought this was the proper “witty retort” for all those people who called NBC out:
GOSH. Get a LIFE people! What could have possibly changed in the last 8 years that would make people want a different approach?
But, she raises a good point. NBC has always done it this way, and it has netted them rewards. The predictability of their offering has allowed them to negotiate sky-high ad revenues during this period. In every conceivable old media way, they have a vested interest in the status quo.
Even if that status quo shits the bed.
It’s time for NBC to pivot.
You hear the term “pivot” a lot to describe start ups changing their focus, or a material part of their business. This is EXACTLY what’s needed here.
Much fun is made of the term “join the conversation,” but that is the crux of the major failure here.
No one bothered to ask HOW NBC was going to join the conversation, or what the hell they were going to do when they got there.
The rules of the road for social media are: 1. LISTEN. 2. Respond, not 1. Broadcast crap no one cares about 2. When they don’t like what you’re shoving down their throats, call them babies.
NBC could have avoided this situation by having a digital chief with REAL POWER in the planning stages who UNDERSTANDS SOCIAL MEDIA and could head this problem off at the pass. (Barring that, said person could have had actual Social Media experts (guest influencers would have been a good way to go) to follow a RESPONSE PLAN to not add gasoline to the fire.
How big is the fire?
- MILLIONS of tweets in 72 hours on the hashtag #nbcfail.
- Jeff Jarvis posts a scathing report on this failure saying, “We in the U.S. are being robbed of the opportunity to share a common experience with the world in a way that was never before possible.”
- Parody accounts cropped up, including @NBCDelayed.
NBC hasn’t even been bothering to listen or contribute at this late stage of the game, even when the harshest critics are linking to streaming online from foreign sources so that they can watch the matches in the way they were intended.
NBC: you are losing revenue because of these stupid fucking decisions.
But, they’ve decided to go the worst route possible: artificially silencing their critics.
The most vocal critic of NBC, British Journalist Guy Adams had his twitter account suspended today (Twitter is in a Co-Production with NBC, though they should have known better.) You can read Guy’s own account here. This story is going viral quickly, and the mentions of NBC are profoundly negative. I guess they want their legacy to be that they’re
NBC, you need to fire whomever is in charge here. This is the WRONG WAY to approach a problem which every other G20 nation broadcasting the games has managed to solve. You need to hire people who are in a position to make real change, and understand how social media works. You can’t (and shouldn’t) prevent people from watching something with the rest of the world, and commenting on what they see.
Your decisions are made based on profits which will evaporate with the dissemination of pirated feeds anyway, making your revenue approach VERY hard to justify. (Plus: there are amazing ways you can market and track behaviour online to increase your profits. Call me if you need a lesson!)
The negative press and mentions online sully what you’re trying to achieve. You can hardly afford this as the #4 network in primetime already. (You’re the Brandon Tartikoff network, for Pete’s sake. ACT LIKE IT)
You cannot afford to fuck this up anymore. It’s a Goddamned embarrassment.
PS: Matt Inman, “The Oatmeal” summing it up:
They should add “streaming the Olympics from other countries because our channels suck.”America would take home all the golds.— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) July 30, 2012
Recently, in an effort to get “down with the kids,” perpetually misguided multinational Nestle (Whose profits last year were 10.35 BILLION dollars) launched their Instagram channel.
Because so many food brands succeed with nonsensical imagery, Nestle opted to dress someone in a bear suit, have them play the drums, and tag the photo “Drumroll please… Nestle is now on Instagram!”
So far so good, yes? The fans of Nestle’s Facebook page didn’t think so. Within minutes, commentary began to flood in regarding the striking resemblance between the Nestle bear and a certain OTHER well known, memetastic animal, PEDOBEAR.
The link tells you all you need to know, but the short strokes are: Pedobear is a powerful symbol of paedophilia online, and one that SOMEONE inside Nestle, at their Agency of Record, or even tangentially connected to this campaign should have picked up on, and raised the flag.
And yet, no one did.
Why is this so important? Well, if you set aside that the beleaguered brand might not want to be freely associated with paedophilia, it brings to light 4 things which will change the landscapes for behemoth companies lumbering along with old media ideas:
1. It’s no longer acceptable to NOT be digital. The world is plugged in. Your customers are plugged in. YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO BE IGNORANT ANY LONGER.
2. If you don’t understand memes, you don’t understand how to distribute your product quickly and efficiently in the new digital world. Memes are currency. You don’t have to love or approve of “1960s Batman.” You DO have to understand how that message is spread quickly in a digital environment. Brands who understand memes do and will continue to have the world at their feet.
3. This could have been avoided by LISTENING. Listening doesn’t just mean setting up Radian6 to hear how much people love your products, it means setting up Google Alerts, reading blogs, and generally being abreast of what is happening online, so you can cull out really shitty ideas before anyone has a chance to book the bear costume.
4. Don’t discount the younger, plugged-in staff because they don’t have enough “experience.” Their experience online could save your asses. Even if a 23-year-old account executive were to have discovered the similarity early on, they most likely didn’t have an environment where they felt they could raise this issue. This is a major fault in most large corporations, and if allowed to continue, will lead to further problems down the road.
It takes a few minutes of your time, and very little effort to stay current, and it could save your brand’s ass (unless you think an association with paedophilia is a positive thing, but I feel like Penn State has trod that ground enough lately, and it’s pretty passé.)
COMPANIES: LISTEN!! INVEST IN DIGITAL. INVEST IN UNDERSTANDING. ASK A YOUNG PERSON. Your reputation could depend on it.
Toronto based yoga fans woke up this morning to find a tantalizing promotion in their Facebook feeds:
Lululemon Eaton’s Centre has a special Facebook offer. At the time I saw it, hundreds of people had claimed it, and yet…
There was no description of what the deal *was.*
I clicked on the link to claim the offer and was promised the details of said (not explicity described) offer was on its way to my inbox.
Here’s what arrived:
This did not help. I reached out to Facebook in the hope that someone knew more about it than I did (or could glean from the awesome instructions.)
As you can see, when I visited Lululemon’s Eaton Centre page, another piece of the puzle was revealed: other people had asked. “What in the hell?”
Here was Lululemon’s “official” response (hidden in a comment reply to Dan Johnson:
Let’s take a moment to parse and discuss:
If you are entering into a partnership with any 3rd party provider, you, as the client need to make sure this shit doesn’t happen.
As a 3rd party provider, you have a duty to make sure you’re not pissing in your own eye by letting something like this happen, and losing revenue.
As the client who does Social Media in house, it is your DUTY to make sure you have a communications and escalation plan for just these types of cases. (And your plan can’t be a piss poor response like the one above.)
SO, WHAT NOW?
Lululemon should have had a plan in place, and when this started to occur, they should have pushed a PINNED POST to Facebook detailing what had happened, and apologising, and not throwing Facebook under the bus (regardless of whether it was Facebook’s fault, it’s their lawn, don’t shit on it.)
Lululemon should also, in the coming days, offer something nominal to turn this failure from frustration and disappointment to surprise and delight.
Social isn’t ramshackle. It isn’t slapdash. It IS forgiving, but you’ve got to be fast, and act in the customer’s best interest (and if that means apologising and making right, you DO IT.)
I will update this post once we see what happens with this situation. Had something like this happen to you in social? Talk to me
UPDATE: Late yesterday, Lululemon posted this to their wall:
Not really an explanation, but (thankfully) not throwing Facebook under the bus. Seriously, though. They should have offered SOMETHING to their loyal fans (however small) to show that they actually do care. They asked people to come into the store anyway, why not have free fancy iced tea?