MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
Hello, and welcome to my blog and the digital home for my thoughts. Most know me as @themaria, my handle across most social media sites and communities. My actual, given name is Maria Ogneva, and I love writing, traveling, eating, and spending time with my new husband.
I am passionate about how social media is changing the way we communicate, help and relate to each other, share news and make the world a smaller, more hospitable place. I work at Salesforce as Director of Product Marketing on the Communities product, where my job is to help customers (and the world at large) to be successful in building communities. I learn every day, and I share my thoughts and personal growth here.
Please note that the views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or any of our clients.
Made you look, didn’t I?
I actually didn’t come up with this title to get clicks. I was feeling genuinely bored of “How to set up your Google+ Circles” and “Whom to follow on Google+” blogposts. I was counting down the days until we have lists of top 10 people to put in your circle. And then Netflixgate happened, at the best possible time. What the heck is Netflixgate? Have a look at this lovely blogpost — apparently our beloved Netflix decided that it loves us so much it will give us the “lowest priced plan ever”.. For streaming.. Double that price for a DVD plan. Needless to say, there are several thousand comments across the blog commenting system and Facebook. Add to that the Twitter avalanche… Yikes, I’d hate to be their social media person right now — trust me, I emphasize as someone who works in this space. However, my pity and understanding only goes so far, since Netflix committed some pretty obvious faux-pas, at least to a trained eye.
Before I go into an obligatory list of “what went wrong”, I’d like to explain the title of this blog. I do think that how businesses act in a situation like Netflixgate is actually much more impactful to the future of this whole social thing. Google+ is a tool. Tools are operated by people. When people from a company tweet and blog, they engage with people, regardless of the tools they use. As a social business, your job is to build an organization-wide process that allows and empowers these people to act in a way that adds value all around. This kind of business wouldn’t let Netflixgate happen. It is painfully obvious to a trained eye that social isn’t part of the business fabric at Netflix. It’s an afterthought and a silo that happily tweets at people.
Ok, now time for the obligatory list of what went wrong:
No crisis response:
Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. It’s very clear that Netflix wasn’t prepared to handle what just happened. Unfortunately, things like these happen time and time again to companies large and small. Fortunately, things like these happen, so the next companies can watch and learn and think through a crisis response. For some reason, Netflix did not learn from the likes of Nestle, BP, Marc Jacobs and others that came before it. A crisis response doesn’t mean that the poor social media person is running around crying and dusting off the good ole’ resume. A crisis response plan has to be truly cross-functional, where the right people are alerted, and up to the highest ranks. Then they get together and think through a response — and a fast one! As of the time of this writing, the last tweet from @netflix and @netflixhelps is from 6 hours ago and happens to be the actual announcement of the price hike.
I’m sorry, Netflix, but did you not expect this? Did you think you were going to send your tidy little tweet about how awesome your prices are and that everyone was going to cheer you on? You should’ve known this was going to be contentious. The old adage still holds “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
Basically, what Netflix says to us is that they like Twitter as a one-way broadcast mechanism, but if someone says something back, they will not engage. I understand that the volume of things to respond to is staggering, and it would be pure insanity to expect this poor social media person to respond to each one. What could work very well, though, is a tweet saying “We hear your feedback loud and clear and will be in touch with next steps”. What comes after this tweet really depends on what your business intends to do: if you intend to make changes, say you are sorry and say you will be backtracking or making new decisions. If you don’t plan to take critique into account, still say you are sorry, but you are sticking to your guns because X, Y and Z. Whatever you plan to do, don’t bullshit. Opaque PR spin serves no one. This brings me to my next point…
Don’t spin and don’t insult your customers:
I’ve been watching Twitter and Facebook reactions for a few hours, and one thing is clear: more people are offended by the smug blogpost full of PR spin than by the actual price hike. I know I am. Hey, we get it — business is tough. Many of us, consumers, have lost or are losing jobs, and our dollar is getting squeezed everywhere. We get it, you have to raise prices.But please don’t insult our intelligence by saying “here’s the lowest price ever!” only to find out in the next paragraph that we are actually paying twice now. We are smarter than you think, and spin doesn’t work in social. Just don’t do it. I’d rather you not tweet or blog if you can’t be at least somewhat honest. Ah, yes, everyone’s favorite topic of transparency. I’m not saying you should publish your financials or proprietary / competitive info, but treating us like we can’t do math is insulting.
Please see the screenshot below for verbiage of the blogpost:
Please note how different the voice in the blogpost is different from email. In the email, Netflix is honest about raising prices due to costs. Nice and honest, and to the point!
Raising prices is fine, with caveats:
See above: we get that you have to raise prices. However, there are a few caveats:
Don’t treat social as an afterthought:
I know the blogger / social media person is usually just relaying the message from the company to the customers. And here’s the kicker: social should have a seat at the table and not be an afterthought in a company’s operations. Rather than making product decisions and thinking through a PR plan, only to loop in social after the fact, why not make social part of the conversation from the beginning? Hey, we are thinking of raising our prices by 40%? What do you think will happen on Facebook? Or should we not even say anything and just “surprise” people? You need to think these things through and make social a part of every conversation that will impact the external audience from the beginning. Clearly, folks at Neflix didn’t work together to hatch this plan. Personally, I know I’d never approve a blogpost that took this tone. How you say something matters. See above point about spin.
And this is why I think it’s a far more important and complex conversation to talk about the processes that govern our use of tools than features of tools themselves. This is why this fascinates me more than Circles on G+ (which are really cool by the way!)