Here’s a lesson in the new world of marketing brought to us by coffee giant Starbucks, Twitter, and a host of activists.
To say “sounds like Skittles” is an understatement of a viral campaign gone haywire.
Starbucks, in the spirit of using social media as a marketing tool, launched a big campaign where it hid posters around 6 major US cities and challenged the public to find the posters, take photos, then post them to Twitter using hash tags Starbucks created for the campaign.
The winners would get prizes.
This would have been all fine and dandy if everyone in the world loved Starbucks as much as their marketing department and fans do, but the campaign happened to coincide with an anti-Starbucks documentary project that aired on YouTube at the same time.
Catching wind of the promotional Twitter campaign, activists commandeered the Starbucks hash tags to create a stream of anti-Starbucks Tweets. They created a picket line on Twitter- a Twicket Line?
It brought visibility to the cause of disgruntled workers, galvanized die-hard Starbucks supporters, gave unions something to Tweet about, and gave a voice for people who despise unions. Buzz, yes. The kind of buzz Starbucks intended? Probably not.
So let’s weigh things out:
1. As in many parts of life, if you use social media for a viral campaign you have no control over the life the project takes on. That’s what makes it so exciting and nerve wracking.
2. If you’re a big company using social media campaigns where public input becomes the content of your campaign, see #1.
3. If you launch a campaign that gets pulled off course, be gracious. A Starbucks spokesperson celebrated freedom of speech when asked to comment on the incident.
4. Pay your people well and honor your employees.
What are you thoughts?