Business and the Power of Social Media

Anyone who knows the internet, even those who knows the net without actively browsing the web, knows the strong impact of social media, which includes facebook, twitter and instagram, on the way business is being done. This is abundantly clear when it comes to marketing. The recent “tshirt controversy” highlights the impact of social media on customer feedback and corporate image.

The t-shirt controversy

A photo of a brown t-shirt was posted on a facebook account of a certain Karen Kunawicz. Printed on the shirt are these words: “It’s not Rape. It’s a Snuggle with a Struggle.” It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the offensive tone of the message. Rape, by any humane standard, is always a serious matter that cannot be taken lightly. Rape is never funny.

The issue escalated not simply because of the message on that shirt, or that the photo was posted in facebook and shared in twitter  and instagram, but more on where the shirt was displayed — in one of the SM malls. Somebody took a photo of the shirt on display inside the SM mall.

The SM response

The reaction of SM shows a lot of things. For one, it shows that SM does monitor its social media account. It shows that SM does care in maintaining an image that is good, as we can glimpse from a related company claiming that they are the good guys. It also shows that SM can move very fast.

Immediately after the tshirt controversy erupted, SM sent out a message, through its twitter account, that it will investigate the matter and, while the investigation is ongoing, remove the offending shirt from the display racks. The message sent on 23 September 2014 (@smsupermalls) reads: “We’ve been informed via social media that we might be stocking a t-shirt with a message that we too find unacceptable. We are investigating on how it was even displayed and will be pulled out immediately.” Later in the morning of the same day, SM posted another tweet (@SM_Youth) which reads, “We have been informed via social media that we have a t-shirt in stock with a message that we too find unacceptable. We do not tolerate such action. SM does not support such irresponsible and malicious acts that mock important and sensitive social issues. We have immediately pulled out all the t-shirts of the consignor that distributes them, and we are investigating why it was included in our delivery of assorted t-shirts. Appropriate action will be taken to ensure this does not happen again. Than you for informing us.”

We should care how the shirt passed SM’s quality control procedures but this is not the focus of this article. Not at this point anyway. What we’re interested for this article is the speed of the SM response. It’s important to note that the issue against SM died down quickly as it started. Whether critics agree or not, SM emerged on the good side of the potential social media firestorm (the SM social media guys should get a raise or something, on top of the pat on the back).

To have or not to have an account

There are reasons for a company not to have a social media account but the list of those reasons is surely short. Businesses must have a social media account. Any company seriously concerned with the quality of its products or services prefers having a media account. A social media account signifies openness to external input and responsiveness to consumer concerns. A wise consumer would do well to patronize a company with a social media account, which means the company is more likely responsive to feedback and, ultimately, interested in maintaining a good corporate image.

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