It is easier than ever for brands to be built up or tarnished by social media. To demonstrate this quickly, I picked a brand at random and used Twitter’s new search tools to find out what people were saying about it. Because I know that pharmaceutical companies are generally behind in their use of social media tools, I chose Pfizer. Without expecting to, I opened a can of worms.
I went to Google News and found the news story that occasioned the tweets: a widespread pickup of the lawsuit announcement, probably sent out by the people who were suing.
Twenty-four hours later, I went back to Twitter and did some further research. I found more tweets on the same subject, along with other random negative tweets about experiments on children in Nigeria. I then went to YouTube and found a video about the closing of a Pfizer plant in the UK a year ago called “50 Ways of Leaving Pfizer,” the gist of which was the loss of 2400 jobs, the outsourcing of R&D, and the anger at the way the company treats its employees.
Remarkably, there was nothing in the last 24 hours from Pfizer itself on either Twitter or Facebook that acknowledges the suit, even to say the company can’t speak about it. Pfizer’s own tweets are as trivial as its Facebook posts. Why bother? It’s a textbook example of how, over a short period of time, a brand can be damaged by social media.
I didn’t make an investment in expensive tools, and I don’t think I spent more than an hour monitoring, but if I worked for Pfizer, I would have done the following as soon as the lawsuit news was released:
1) Gotten on a call with corporate counsel and corporate communications
2) Found out what could and could not be said publicly about the lawsuit
3) Developed two or three major talking points that were simple enough to be condensed into 140 characters
4) Drafted a Q&A or a fact sheet
5) Posted the Q&A to the corporate blog
6) Tweeted a reference to the posted Q&A and the blog
7) Posted links on the Facebook brand page to the Q&A and the blog
There doesn’t appear to be any brand engagement on Pfizer’s social media pages, and that’s because they don’t address real issues in a timely fashion.
Social media programs like these are sorely in need of overhauls, lest they continue to have what is likely negative ROI, and further erode their brands.
[Image: Flickr user Leon Rice-Whetton]