Holding Corporations Accountable: A Case for Social Media

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When people are overturning governments and directing public policy through groups formed on social media platforms, you know that times are changing.

Events like Arab Spring, the Tunisian Revolution and the Occupy movement are proof that when like-minded individuals meet up (or, tweet up), they’re able to accomplish great things. Mashable.com put together a collection of 9 Social Media Uprisings that Sought to Change the World in 2011, and none of them are short of impressive.

The people behind these movements saw their governments plagued with inadequacy and rife with corruption. They believed that governments should be representative of their constituents; social media created an outlet for people to find others with their same ideals, formulate a plan of action and gather together to create change. They’re working to make their lives and the lives of their future generations better through something as seemingly simple as communicating.

Communication is a powerful engine, and social media is adding fuel to the machine. But what happens when people start to influence the way corporations think and act through social media?

The consumer once again is the true center of the marketplace.

Changing the way companies interact

In April 2009, Domino’s Pizza was much like any other fast food company in the U.S. – providing greasy, bad-for-you, indulgent food that was considered reasonably safe and enjoyed by millions of Americans.

That is, of course, until April 13th, when two bored employees at a franchise location in North Carolina decided to film themselves doing disgusting things to food that was set to go out on a delivery order. Then, in a stroke of pure genius, posted those videos to YouTube. Within hours, they had thousands of views; millions of viewers have now enjoyed their exploits as the videos have been posted and reposted across the web. The videos are still available online at The Consumerist and showcase the extreme idiocy of these two employees; the instant corporate was able to identify the culprits they were fired and charged with felonies.

But out of necessity comes ingenuity, and for Domino’s, that means springing into social media like never before to respond to these videos and try to win back any customers that hadn’t already gone running for the hills. The CEO responds within 48 hours by filming a short video and posting it to YouTube:

In the years since the incident, Domino’s has become a social media case for what to do in a crisis situation, and undoubtedly will teach lessons to Public Relations students for years to come about how the Internet can be your foe and your friend.

But Domino’s didn’t stop at resolving the situation. With a newfound appreciation for social media and the level of consumer engagement you can achieve, Domino’s began asking for customer feedback. They wanted pictures of their deliveries to see if the food was up to par. They wanted comments about the sauce, the crust and the quality of their toppings. They wanted to know what their customers thought, and they were open to genuinely listening to their criticisms. They’re calling it the Pizza Turnaround and it’s changing the way they make decisions.

By opening up their ears to the concerns of their customers, Domino’s has been able to reconstruct their products and create entirely new marketing campaigns centered on the consumers’ wants and needs. And they’re quickly moving past the tumultuous days of April 2009 and into a customer base that is willing to try them again.

In this case, social media stood at the crux of success and failure for Domino’s. Certainly, their consumers were concerned with what they saw happening at the store in North Carolina. The videos spread like wildfire across the YouTube video platform and put the entire country on fast-food high alert. But social media allowed for Domino’s to not only respond quickly, but to remain a part of the conversation. Had they not jumped in with a video of their own, they may have reached an entirely different base of customers than the ones who saw the original video, causing potentially more harm than good. But by embracing social media, they were able to quickly and efficiently reach those who had seen the video and issue a sincere apology.

But more than that, they were able to continue engaging their customers, encouraging their feedback and taking their criticisms to heart. They changed their business model because the customer was demanding it, and the customer now has a direct line of influence into the brand through social media.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Social Media/Movements « coolmitten

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