Will a new Facebook “enemy” app become its own worst enemy?

As a society, we equate the number of “friends” or “likes” we collect on our social networks with popularity and status, but how would we feel if we were tagged as an “enemy”? Hurt, confused, insecure, or even threatened?

Unfortunately, our fears may soon be a reality. EnemyGraph, a new free app for Facebook built by graduate students at the University of Texas, allows users to make an “enemy” of their “friends,” public figures, and companies with Facebook pages.

Dean Terry, director of the emerging media program at the university argues that the new app provides balance and that people often bond over their common dislikes.  That’s true, but do we need to promote the term “enemy?” So far, Facebook has resisted the addition of a “dislike” button.

Currently making the top of the “enemy” list are Justin Bieber, Facebook Timeline, racism, MacDonald’s restaurants, and Rush Limbaugh – all fair game we might agree. The numbers using the app are still too low to have any significant impact on reputation, but companies that don’t meet public expectations may have to watch this space in the future.

My concern is not for the public figures and companies who are now more adept at engaging in the social space and responding to negativity, but for individuals. In response to criticism suggesting this is a “bully app,” a statement on the app’s Facebook page offers, “You have to be Facebook friends with someone in order to make them an “enemy.” To our knowledge anyone using this function is doing it in jest.”

Naïve! Try telling that to an emotional teenager who has been publically shunned in front of his or her “friends.” For sure, some will use it in fun, just as they are “married” to their best friends, but there is a fine line between harmless fun and bullying. “Enemy” is a harsh term.

Since the app was launched, it has had several teething problems – with the rising number of negative comments from its users, the app may fast become its own worst “enemy.”

So far, Facebook has not joined the conversation. Perhaps it, too, is hoping the app will self-destruct. What do you think – is this app fair game or will it cause more harm than good?

Update: Hope of a cure for Komen

As individuals, we feel a sense of satisfaction when our opinions are validated.

Since my last post, Harris Interactive released the results of its 2012 EquiTrend study, which measures and compares brand health. The organization with the largest drop in brand equity over the past year, and the second highest drop in the 23-year history of the poll, was Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Komen usually receives high scores for quality, willingness to recommend, and trust. This year it fell to the bottom of the pack. Negative feelings rose by 350%.

The good news for Komen – the wounds do not appear to be fatal. A press release from Harris Interactive suggests, “indicators look good for a bounce-back if commitment to core mission is re-established.” Let’s hope Komen listens.

Is it too late for Komen?

Susan G. Komen for the Cure continues to attract media attention, but for all the wrong reasons. This week, yet another senior executive, Dara Richardson-Heron, announced she had made a “personal decision” to leave her role as the CEO of Komen Greater NYC. Now, there are calls for the resignation of Nancy Brinker, the founder and chief executive of the organization.

Komen has been unable to rebuild its reputation since it announced the withdrawal of funding for breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood clinics, earlier this year. So what went wrong?

Komen lost touch with its donors and lost sight of its intrinsic identity.

The organization failed to monitor its donors’ conversations and was blind-sided by the public outrage. As a result, Komen was slow to respond to the criticism, and outrage escalated.

Worse still, Komen tried to justify its decision by insisting that the elimination of funds was because Planned Parenthood was under federal investigation – this was untrue. Credibility dropped further when e-mails emerged linking the decision to the performance of abortions at some Planned Parenthood clinics. Not only did Komen become embroiled in the age-old political abortion debate, but it also failed to be honest – crisis management 101.

The organization’s behavior and stakeholder expectations are polls apart. Responsibility, reliability, credibility, and trustworthiness are key to a good reputation. Komen no longer scores favorably on any of these traits.

A crisis is a test of management. If it responds well, people gain confidence. If not, reputation suffers. For Komen, each new resignation drags the organization down further, and the damage increases.

With two major NYC fundraisers shelved, donations down across the country, and other non-profits poised to jump into the space, Susan G. Komen for the Cure needs to act now. It must refocus and start engaging with its audiences, inside and outside the organization.

At this stage, only drastic measures will restore donor confidence – a change at the top would be a good start.

Lin–Drama: will we ever learn?

Jeremy Lin - by nikka_la on Flickr

Only a few weeks ago, most of us had never even heard of Jeremy Lin. Now, turn on the television, switch on the computer, or walk by the newsstand, his face is everywhere. Lin-mania, Lin-sanity, or whatever you choose to call it, has taken the nation by storm.

Jeremy Lin has been hailed the fastest-growing athlete brand, worth an estimated $14 million. He is reported to have signed a lucrative Nike endorsement deal and is said to be entertaining offers from hundreds of other companies.

With the dramatic increase in viewer ratings, the Knicks, MSG Network, ABC/ESPN, and the NBA will all benefit from the success of Lin.

Even marketing campaigns have latched onto the nation’s obsession with Lin. Spirit Airlines invited its customers to, “Check Out Our Linsanely Low Fares.”

Unfortunately, not everyone has gained from the basketball star’s meteoric rise. The media created “Lin-mania.” But, the pressure to find new angles and new headlines for stories proved too much for some. Mistakes have been made and reputations damaged.

 An ESPN editor was fired and a news anchor suspended. Radio, television, mobile news websites, and Twitter have all been the sites of potentially offensive (and inexcusable) racial slurs directed at Lin and the Asian American community.

Last week, to prevent further incidents, the Asian American Journalists Association released guidelines for media coverage of Jeremy Lin – sadly, it has no influence over the general public.

Despite all the discussions about racial stereotyping, on Friday, a high school football recruit posted a racially offensive remark, about Lin, on Twitter.

While he may not be bound by the same professional code as journalists, as a future college athlete, his actions will always be under public scrutiny and his behavior will reflect the college he plays for – watch out U. Maryland!

Like so many others, he has been left apologizing for his “unintentional” behavior.

When will we learn to engage our brains, and pause to think about the possible consequences of our words, before pressing “tweet,”  “send,” or “post”?

A Week of Social Media: Good, Bad, and Ugly

This week, the reputations of companies, brands, and individuals have been tarnished, supported, enhanced, and immortalized. The public has contributed its voice through social media channels.

WHITNEY HOUSTON

Yesterday, family, friends, and celebrities gathered to say goodbye to singer, Whitney Houston. While acknowledging her vulnerabilities, the powerful eulogies paid tribute to Houston’s achievements and helped secure her place in history as one of the great voices of her time.

Ordinary fans gathered on Twitter to pay their respects, just as they had done a week earlier to express their grief over Houston’s tragic death. In fact, Houston related themes dominated the top ten Twitter trends for much of the past week.

APPLE

At the beginning of the week, Harris Interactive released the results of its 2012  Reputation Quotient Study. Apple ranked highest, confirming (perhaps, even enhancing) its reputation with the general public.

But, to some, this achievement was surprising. For several years, Apple has been fighting groundswell against the treatment of employees working in its supply chain. One New York Times article alone, “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad,” attracted 1,770 online comments condemning Apple’s human rights record.

Corporate social responsibility is only one of six categories in the survey. The financial performance of the company, success of the iPhone 4S, and the recent memory of the visionary leader, Steve Jobs, contributed to Apple’s overall first position.

The following day, the Twitter world was abuzz again.  Tim Cook, Apple CEO, finally, acknowledged the company’s human rights problem by announcing that the Fair Labor Association is assessing working conditions in its factories. In a further victory for activists, Foxconn Technology, an Apple manufacturer, announced pay rises for workers.

If Apple is to maintain second place in the social responsibility ranking, it needs to deliver on these promises. The company cannot ride on its innovative products and financial performance forever.The question is now clear, “Profit at what cost?” The world is watching.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM

Single Rose – by Thor

As a result of another social media outburst, the reputation of 1-800-Flowers.Com, Inc. took a nosedive this week. The company suggests it is rated number one amongst its competitors for customer satisfaction – I’m guessing not any longer!

1-880-Flowers.Com failed to deliver hundreds of orders on Valentine’s Day. Unhappy customers posted derogatory messages on Facebook or took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction. Soon, complete strangers were engaging in conversations with each other. The anger towards the company increased. Apologetic employees attempted to quell the Twitter outcry.

While we might applaud 1-800-Flowers.Com for monitoring the social media channels and for listening, responding, and apologizing to its customers on Twitter, communication cannot fix the problem. It can only attempt to limit reputational damage. Improving performance is key to restoring trust.

Time is limited. With Easter and Mother’s Day on the horizon, will dissatisfied customers (and the many others who read the angry Tweets) give the company another chance? Or will the newly formed Twitter group recruit more disgruntled followers?

BMW Caught in a Storm

BMW Badge by Byrion on Flickr

 

Think of BMW and the words quality and performance come to mind. For years, the company has delivered on its promise to build the “ultimate driving machine.” Combining this achievement with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability has allowed BMW to bank significant reputational capital.

Last week, the company was forced to dip into its savings when an advertising campaign for its Mini Cooper brand fell foul of the weather.

Sassenbach Advertising, based in Munich, paid $394 to place the name “Cooper” on a list for naming high-pressure weather systems in Germany. The agency, which runs social media campaigns for Mini Cooper, says it was trying to portray a “ wind- and weather-proof idea” for the new two-seater convertible. Fans were invited to track the progress of the “beautiful weather” system online.

Unfortunately, the extreme cold weather front, which became known as “Cooper,” reaped havoc across Europe.  Temperatures dropped to minus 33 degrees Celsius and numerous deaths were reported in several countries. Thousands were treated in hospital for hypothermia and frostbite.

With the Mini Cooper brand linked to worsening weather reports, BMW was caught in a public relations nightmare. The company issued a statement expressing regret and stating, “you cannot tell in advance what a weather system will do.”

Did BMW hear what it said? Given that we cannot control Mother Nature, why would BMW agree to align one of its brands with something as unpredictable as the weather? Was the risk of tarnishing brand reputation worth the potential benefit?

Hopefully, BMW and the ad agency – who quickly distanced itself from the incident – have learned a lesson. If not, it appears this story may not be over yet. The ad agency also purchased the name “Minnie” to be assigned to a warm weather front!

What do you think? Should BMW and its Mini Cooper brand take a chance on another weather system?