Zeus of Marketing

Pray for Japan: What Can Marketers Learn About Social Media in Times of Crisis?

March 17th, 2011



Love and Prayers Going Your Way

In a week when Social Media followers and practitioners expected with great anticipation a barrage of forward thinking news from the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW), Mother Earth showed us who really sets the priorities. The earthquake, tsunami and most recently, potential of a nuclear meltdown have taken over the world’s attention, as it should.  No new widget, not even the invention of electricity should take precedent over human catastrophe and lost of life. Personally, my deepest sympathy and prayers go to all those affected by these events.

With that said, we should reflect on how our existing or planned Social Media strategies could help rather than hinder world events and crises. To do that, I have selected examples (I’m sure there are thousands of others) on who got it right and who missed it, ending up this post with a recommendation based on my previously recommended five interactive steps to developing a successful Social Media Strategy.

Who Gets It?:

Cameron Sinclair: From the stage at SXSW, Architecture for Humanity’s Cameron Sinclair announced a $75,000 commitment from donors to rebuilding from the Japanese earthquake, along with a personal pledge: If the donation link bit.ly/sxsw4JP is re-tweeted 100,000 times, he’ll donate 10% of his own salary. How’s that for a fast response and strengthening Architecture for Humanity positioning and awareness. (co-founder and ‘chief eternal optimist’ (CEO) for Architecture for Humanity, a charitable organization which seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings professional design services to communities in need).


Live Long and Prosper

Google: With little fanfare, the world’s leading information finder is doing what it does best: finding and sharing information. As an immediate response to Japan’s earthquake, the search engine created the 2011 Japanese Earthquake Crisis Response page. It isn’t filled with over-hyped media stories or breathless reporters, but instead an elegant, if not utilitarian, listing of information that people need. A simple interface is available for people to find relatives or report their current location. A listing of blackout schedules, shelter locations and transit information is also in an easy-to-find format. A clear win versus Yahoo and Bing.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T: Verizon Wireless has joined AT&T in offering free wireless calling and text messaging to Japan in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami to hit that country last Friday. Verizon will provide free calling and texting through April 10, while AT&T separately said it would do so through March 31. All four of the nation’s largest carriers are also allowing customers to send $10 donations via free text messages to a variety of organizations, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, aiding relief efforts. Verizon and AT&T phone partner Apple, has begun accepting Red Cross donations through iTunes in amounts of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and $200. It doesn’t matter who followed who, the important thing is that it helps and they will be remember by all those affected for the rest of their lives. Talk about loyalty and continuity incentives.

Who missed it?

Microsoft Bing: Immediate social outrage. Rather than donating $100K and tweeting about their good deed to encourage others to donate, the social media team decided to donate $1 for every retweet, up to $100K. Seven hours later the company apologized for its shortsighted decision. Since then, Microsoft basically admitted this with its subsequent pledge of $2 million in cash and software… no re-tweeting needed. Perception of Microsoft is further worsened by the fact that its competitor and market leader, Google, was so immediate, sincere and flawless.


Squeezed Too Hard?

Gilbert Gottfried: the comedian who supplies the voice for the squawking duck character in most Aflac commercials, started to post at least 10 jokes (in his usual not ready for primetime manner) to his personal Twitter feed (@RealGilbert) about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — a market that accounts for 75 percent of Aflac’s revenue. Aflac responded well by immediately dismissing the comedian from its payroll – but more caution next time in selecting a persona to represent your brand, please.


Not all crises are of the magnitude that the world has experienced this week. Most are product or service centered, e.g., Toyota recall,  ¨Domino’s YouTube Kitchen Nightmare”,  etc., and we are mostly prepared to deal with these for the most part, albeit, I bet Social Media could help us improve it.  But for every company, particularly if words in your mission or positioning include “green”, environmentally conscious, local or global citizen, etc. you better get prepared to respond fast, deep and as sincerely as possible.

If you go back to my posts on the importance of monitoring  (So You Are Listening, Now What??? 
January 18, 2011) and the one on engagement (Past Dreams are Enabled by the Present to Ensure the Future”
February 7, 2011), steps two and four in my framework respectively, you’ll be reminded of the critical elements necessary to be ready when a crisis hits. In the ideal world you would have already integrated a Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) process where as part of your customer database you include your influential and loyal fans location and their areas of influence. With this information in hand you could instantly notify, incent and engage these selected customers to:

  • Provide feedback on the locality (neighborhood, state, region, country) immediate needs.
  • Request feedback/ideas on what can be done.
  • Recruit them as ambassadors to disseminate your response.

This information will allow you to quickly develop a program that is based on needs and built from the ground up, therefore reducing any self-serving outside perception.

Imagine the goodwill, peace of mind and last but not least, the number of blogs that will be written about you.  Seriously, it does start by sincerely acting on what you preach by being positioned as a citizen of this constantly shrinking world (International borders are disintegrating by the second).  Talk about truly humanizing your brand.

In case you haven’t done so yet, please:

Text 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross ($10 charge will appear in your provider’s monthly bill)

Google Crisis Response Center [http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html]

Facebook Disaster Relief Page [http://www.facebook.com/DisasterRelief]

Stay tuned for my next blog.  In the meantime, please share your thoughts below; I appreciate each and every one of your insightful comments, and I promise to pay extra attention to any opposing point of view. You can also contact me via email: zeus@jrgrana.com, Twitter: @zeusofmarketing and Facebook: Zeus of Marketing. You can also find additional contact information via LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jrgrana



Entry Filed under: SCRM,Social Media

  • Heather

    Insightful, relevant, timely and well written. Week after week you are helping us all to be better at what we do. I love your blogs!

  • Rlisner1

    So great to see social media making such an impact in times of crisis and showing the humanity in us all.

  • David Shriner-Cahn

    You really identified how important sincerity and integrity are in everything we do. Great post.

    • Zeus

      more than ever before – the digital consumer (basically the new world rule) can now smell a skunk a continent away.

  • Elizabeth Suarez

    Awesome article. Great job!

  • Louis Furlo

    Extremely well said and docmented … Bravo!


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