The Komen Furor: Lessons In Social Savvy
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The Komen Furor: Lessons In Social Savvy

Posted in Search & Social — February 3, 2012

Originally posted on our Big Daylight division blog, this post takes a look at the frenzied social media response to the Komen funding issue.

Disclaimer: This a post about social media, not politics. There are plenty of social and political lessons to be learned here on both sides, but the power of online communication and engagement applies to both sides of the argument.

I logged into Facebook around 7 this morning and discovered that my feed had been taken over by the Susan G Komen Foundation.  Family, friends, and colleagues were abuzz with the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Here’s just one of a few notices that popped up:

Political view aside, my antennae started to perk up. Comment deletions? Isn’t that against the 10 Commandments of Social Media Management?  So off I went to the Susan G Komen page. There I found a social media hailstorm. THOUSANDS of comments. Thousands of comment deletions. Thousands of comments about the comment deletions. Deleted comments about comment deletion comments.

Then I did a few Google searches. The results were not pretty.  It was a public relations meltdown, complete with board shakeup.

The takeaways for digital marketers:

  1. You can’t “delete” a social media backlash.
    If you have a Facebook page, for example, be ready to engage. Because if you delete a post, it’s like trying to cut the head off Hydra – two will emerge in its place.
  2. The conversation will happen with or without you.
    So many companies nowadays try to decide if the “want to be on” Facebook or Twitter. The thing is: you are there whether you like it or not. People will talk about you, regardless of whether or not you have an official page or not. Take control of the situation by owning your social presence, instead of avoiding it.  In fact, engaging on your own page is your opportunity to respond to and communicate with your audience in the most authentic way possible.
  3. Know your audience. And don’t betray them.
    The striking thing about the Susan G Komen foundation is how completely out of touch they appeared to be many people that supported them. Again, without taking sides, it’s incredible to see such a beloved non-profit organization, with such a noble mission, alienate such a devastatingly large segment of their donor base that they evidently didn’t expect to react.
  4. BE NICE.
    This is feedback for any and all online commenters anywhere about the Susan G. Komen foundation.  If you’re trying to help someone understand why someone matters to you, swearing and insults help nothing; in fact, they do you a disservice. If someone already doesn’t agree with you, it’s unlikely vitriol will move them into your camp. Learning how to spell is also important.
  5. Online Groundswells are forces to be reckoned with.
    The power is awesome, when you think about it. In January,  SOPA was stopped dead in its tracks because of online backlash and buzz. And today? Well, it’s not morning anymore.
  6. LISTEN. AND RESPOND.
    The Susan G Komen foundation reversed their stance and announced that they will continue to fund existing grants – including Planned Parenthood.  The most important thing here is that after appearing not to listen, and after appearing to be at odds with a huge portion of their supporter base, they started to listen. And what’s more, they’re starting to act on the feedback. That’s something all of us can learn from.

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