Twitter is a realm of news, sharing, and communication. It can also be an excellent venue for marketing and promoting a brand message. As Bing learned, attempting to sneak marketing into news of a tragedy under the guise of good intentions is an insult to the intelligence of the Twitter community.
The backlash to the Tweet above was swift and harsh. Despite getting a ton of retweets, the negatives greatly outweighed any positives that Bing got from this. Let’s look at what they did, why it sucked, and what they should have done instead.
Bing Marketing: “Let’s Ride this Wave!”
“Let’s ride this wave.” As tacky as it sounds, those were the intentions of this campaign. Twitter and just about everyone else who noticed could easily see through any good intentions that Bing had by Tweeting this.
If you’re a Twitter user, you should be utterly insulted by this. It might as well have said, “We want to take advantage of the massive Twitter action surrounding this tragedy, so we’ll bribe you in the name of goodwill to spread our brand, improve our Klout, and drive traffic to our site.”
They apologized, but even in the apology they defended their actions and intentions:
“We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K.”
The original Tweet is still active.
What Bing Should Have Done
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy for a blogger to sit here and say, “Hey morons, you did it wrong.”
Under normal circumstances, I try to avoid that. In this case, it would not have taken a social media guru to see where this road was leading. A real social media marketing firm would have understood the community and the way that social media works to they point that they would have warned the Bing marketing department of this faux pas. Instead, marketers won and Bing lost.
The key to using social media is to understand that intentions are almost always transparent. You can pretend that your intentions are good, but if you have an ulterior motive to anything you post, the community will see through it every time.
There are plenty of resources that were up and running before the tragedy and more that have popped up since. Bing Tweeted the landing page with some of these resources, but it was a weak attempt considering what Bing has at their disposal. If you visit the page, you’ll see that it’s awful from top to bottom:
- Section 1 – A short recap of the event (in which they expressed their concern with no sincerity)
- Section 2 – A paragraph and some bullets telling everyone what Microsoft is doing to help (tacky to be put on a landing page like this – should have been either at the bottom of the page or linked to another page for anyone who really gave a crap)
- Section 3 – A list of links to places where people could donate. This is a feeble attempt and offers less information than what could be found from a Google search
- Section 4 – Bing Maps promoting further promoting what Bing is working on doing to help eventually. No use whatsoever to people wanting to help right now.
- Section 5 – The ultimate slap in the face. It’s further information about what Bing is doing to help, though there is no way that people can use any of this information other than to take mental note that there are places that Microsoft is using to pretend to help. Then, they link to some of their services such as Hotmail and Messenger. They actually linked to their services. These links serve no purpose other than promotion. The section was titled, “Keeping You in Contact.” With whom? There is nothing here that would help keep anyone in contact with anything relevant to the tsunami.
If they really wanted to help, here’s what they could have done:
- REAL Research – Don’t give us links to the Red Cross. Give us something that we can use. Think through the needs here. You’re Bing. You have resources. Use them. Help people with loved ones over there get connected. Offer creative ways that people can help, as not everyone is in a position to give money but most would be willing to help if they knew how. Find out which charity groups are going to do the most good with every dollar donated and link to them, explaining why they are a good choice based upon finding out how much of every dollar donated will go towards relief efforts and what the efforts themselves will be.
- Give – $100,000? Really, Microsoft? This is a historic tragedy with millions affected now and likely billions affected over time. Your pennies are an insult. Add 3 or 4 zeroes to the end of that number and now we’re talking.
- Be Useful – Your landing page sucked. It was created by a marketing department that cared more about the PR than it cared about Japan and others affected. Take some real research detailed above and offer us ways to participate. If Google Maps are better in this situation, link to them. If Skype is better than Messenger for this effort, tell us. As far as Hotmail, don’t insult us by putting a link to it.
- Tweet Sincerely (with no hoops) – “We have a #tsunami resource page up and we’re working on it nonstop (link). Spread the word, please.” —- “Want to donate to #tsunami relief? We’ve looked at many options and (link) puts the most per donated dollar directly towards the efforts.” —- “We pledge $100,000,000 to #tsunami relief. If you have the means, please give what you can (link)”
It is in actions and intentions such as these that Bing could have made a difference AND achieved their goals of “marketing.” On social media, intentions are transparent. Don’t try to ride the wave. Just do what’s right. We’ll notice.