For the longest time, large offline corporations of a certain ilk have used lawsuits and the threat of them to silence their critics. Even when in the right, most individuals don’t have the financial wherewithal to mount a legal defense against a battery of hard-nosed lawyers protecting corporate sharks from exposure. Not many would disagree that this is an immoral use of power and wealth, but since when did those with power & wealth exhibit much interest in society’s morals?
Well, the tide may be about to change, as they say game pc offline. Apparently offended by a tweet on Twitter recently, one company launched a lawsuit against the tweet’s author. I know neither the person nor anyone from the company involved, so this is neither a rant or a veiled mission – simply a caveat to offline businesses about the power of the new Social Networking world.
Twitter is set up so that only your own followers see your tweets, although some are later indexed by the search engines, where they may or may not be seen by others. In this instance it appears the author of the tweet had 20 followers – extremely limited exposure. And with hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of tweets flowing through for most Twitter users, one can assume a large percentage of followers miss any given tweet.
The company launched a lawsuit purportedly demanding $50,000US in damages, and the story was picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. The marketer in me shuddered as I read the comments from a company spokesperson, but it was still a mostly-local issue.
One of the top 10 bloggers in the world, as rated by Technorati, picked up the story and blogged about it, showing both the original tweet and the company’s remarks as quoted by the Sun-Times.
Suddenly this tweet is now being seen by thousands or tens of thousands of people – a far cry from those original 15 or 20 viewers. And it doesn’t stop there…
A number of other bloggers covering the story have provided a link to the original blog post – bringing the attention to their audiences as well. Mot impressively, 1,950 – yes, one-thousand, nine hundred and fifty – viewers have sent a tweet from the site to bring the blog post to the attention of the combined Twitter following, an audience potentially in the millions!
All this the same day the information was posted – and already Google, Bing and Yahoo had indexed the post, as demonstrated by a search at each for the exact title of the posting.
And those are just the search engine results within 12 hours of the article being posted, so it’s fairly safe to assume those will continue to grow for a while yet as new sources are found, new tweets are made, and more bloggers take up the case.
Ignoring the original tweet could have meant 15 or 20 people might develop a bad impression of the company concerned – by making it an issue, how many of the millions will feel that way? What does damage control cost on this new scale – and can it be implemented successfully by any company?
Face it – for offline businesses, the game has changed. Instant access and instant response has put the consumer in a position so powerful as to (almost) match the power of the big business legal front.
Ignoring Social Media is a major mistake for offline businesses – using it wrong or being ignorant of it’s power is far worse, and an offline business might soon sink or swim based on it’s online reputation. Just as offline businesses search Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and the big search engines for background on employees, potential hires and suppliers, so now do consumers and potential corporate clients before making buying decisions. Can lenders and legislators be far behind?
Using Social Media correctly, however, can be a major boon to offline businesses, from little corner stores and home-based entrepreneurs to the largest global corporations. If your budget allows, hire a professional social media consultant to guide you through the potential public relations minefields to the profitable pastures beyond – and be amongst the first of offline businesses to use Social Media to increase your bottom line while enhancing your company’s reputation world-wide or in your own backyard!