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Does “That’s Business” Mean Bullying is Acceptable?

My coworker, Marilyn Cox, is the author of a fantastic blog relating the lessons she’s learning while she raises her children to the lessons she’s learning while managing her team here at work called Business Is Child’s Play. She’s a great writer and teaches some fantastic lessons to her readers.

I’ve never delved into the ‘Business Is Child’s Play’ realm simply because I don’t have any children and I know Marilyn can relate to some stories much  better, but the most recent story I’ve been following has forced my hand.

Yesterday, GM announced that they were going to pull their $10 million ad campaign from Facebook stating that the ads were “ineffective” and not valuable in the overall structure of advertising for the company. Coming just days before the anticipated Facebook IPO on Friday, the news is not exactly a vote of confidence in Facebook’s ad revenue even though the automaker did say they found value in maintaining brand pages on the site.

Ford and Chrysler don’t agree with their competitor that Facebook advertisements aren’t valuable. That’s all well and good, and had the story ended there it would have been a non-issue. Ford took it a step further though, in essence calling out GM and insinuating that it is their own fault that they don’t find value in the platform.

And that’s where the child’s play comes in – Ford is being a brat.

It is one thing to respond to questions from the media after a competitor’s announcement dissenting or saying that you are staying the course with your advertising budget – as Chrysler did with a succinct statement saying: “Each of our brands has Facebook as a part of its strategy.”

It’s quite another to say things in response that can be taken as “nah nah nah nah nah nah … we’re better than you!”

Maybe it’s a matter of media. When the head of social media for Ford was allowed longer soundbites in news articles he sounded less bratty. He stated his opinion that Ford has found Facebook to be effective when strategically combined with other initiatives on the site. Then he threw out a plug for Ford’s close partnership with the social platform. The digs are still there, they’re just more disguised.

Taking that same message to Twitter, though, is where the problem begins.

When speaking in 140 characters or less there is always the danger of coming across abrupt or rude. But it seems mean spirited to humblebrag your way to calling your competitors incompetent because they didn’t find value in the same service you use.

That’d be like someone disagreeing with my choice of shampoo and me shooting back with, “It’s all about execution. My shampoo is effective when combined with the same brand’s conditioner.” The unsaid subtext is, “Geez. You MUST not rinse and repeat…”

What does it matter if you find advertising value in one platform when someone else doesn’t? My example isn’t even accurate because GM didn’t say they hate Facebook and never ever plan on using it again, they just stated that they are not receiving the return they want when they’re investing $10 million and want to invest that considerable sum of money elsewhere.

GM’s statement never took on a tone of, “well, we’re leaving and so should you.” Ford could have done the same as Chrysler and kept their response simple and respectful. Instead, they postured and sputtered a response attacking anyone who thought that advertising on Facebook might not be their best ad route. In trying to let their customer and prospect base know they have a close partnership with Facebook, they became a bully in the marketplace.

Some might say “that’s just business,” but do we really want “boys will be boys” to be what we accept from large corporations?

UPDATE #1: Both Ford and GM reached out on Twitter within an hour after posting

Dialogue with Connie Burke, Grassroots Public Relations for GM:

Dialogue with Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford:

Why does any of this matter? Two things: It’s gratifying to know that both companies have social media strategies in place and can respond to things like this. I couldn’t believe that I was talking to two huge automakers for an entire afternoon, but it put a human face on both companies and it was the talk of my office. Just because GM doesn’t see value in advertising on Facebook, they still interact. And just because Ford DOES see value in Facebook, doesn’t mean that is the only place they’re interacting.

Second, social media is a huge component in how you are viewed by consumers. I appreciate the interaction from both companies, but social should add value to conversations; it should never be an argument between a company and a consumer. My view of these companies was changed because of these interactions – good or bad, the needle definitely moved on whether or not I would purchase a vehicle from them.

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

Comments (3)

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  1. Connie Burke says:

    Connie with GM, here, Liz. I really appreciate your take on this. My sentiments exactly – although it comes across much more credibly if you say it, rather than me 😉
    I’ve been with GM more than 27 years and can attest to the fact that we do, in fact, do things strategically, engagingly and innovatively – I’ve seen tremendous creativity, heart & soul poured into our Grassroots events, our partnerships with the US Military, and most every vehicle program I’ve had the pleasure to see executed – many that were advertised or linked back to Facebook.
    From my own experience, I can tell you that having our brand logo in a program or print ad gets you very little ROI. It’s difficult, at best, to measure whether your ad moved the needle on someone’s vehicle purchase consideration.
    Far more valuable: getting “seats in seats” and giving someone a real-world, extended experience behind the wheel of one of our vehicles. I can personally attest to numerous requests for a GM vehicle discount code after having loaned someone one of our cars, trucks or crossovers to experience their everyday lives. I’ve NEVER had anyone contact me to say, “…saw one of your Facebook ads. What’s the deal on that new Chevy Sonic…?”
    Thanks once again for your insight and opinion. Well said.

  2. Liz Harter says:

    Thanks for the response, Connie. I’m not trying to get into a war with Ford or anything, but the comments came off as disingenuous to me.
    We have the same issue in B2B software with qualifying and quantifying how much we’ve moved the needle on a purchase because of advertising or even our Facebook brand page. Thanks for the further insights into GM!

  3. Gordon Stokely says:

    Liz:

    Nice “ltl red sports car”. Help me talk Tracey into one.

    Gordon