Author Archive

The Power of Yelp

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A few mornings ago I had CNN on in the background and a few tidbits of conversation caught my attention. The news anchor was interviewing Christopher Dietz, a contractor who is suing a former client for bad reviews on Angie’s List and Yelp.  My initial reaction was to side with the reviewer, free speech and all that. However after hearing more of the story, I felt conflicted.

I manage a boutique on Newbury street in Boston and understand the power of a bad review. In fact, I have even had customers use their reviewing power as a negotiation tactic. Although you can reply to bad reviews on sites like Yelp, often the damage is already done and any counter arguments come across as whiny or disingenuous. Both Yelp and Angie’s list will not mitigate posts. Outside of legal action, there is very little recourse for businesses to get false reviews removed.

BS News legal analyst Jack Ford explained defamation and how it relates to this case. On “CBS This Morning” he said, “Our constitutional right to free speech is not absolute. There are limitations on it. For instance, the classic one, you can’t falsely yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. … Because obviously, you can expose people to damage. What you can do is offer up is your opinion about things. As long as it’s clearly an opinion. Here’s what you can’t do. And this is where you get into defamation. You can’t make a false statement of fact that damages somebody’s reputation. So if I wanted to say, in a situation similar to this, I was just not at all happy with the work that my contractor did. That’s okay. That’s my opinion. But if i say, ‘I was not at all happy with the work that my contractor did, and by the way my contractor is an embezzler’ … or ‘he stole jewelry’ or even make the argument saying, ‘He damaged my house,’ now you’re making a statement of fact. The law also says, truth is an absolute defense. So if somebody did damage your house or somebody is an embezzler, then you’re OK. Even though it damages their reputation, as long as it’s true, it’s OK. The classic thing to remember is [defamation is] a false statement of fact that damages somebody’s reputation, as opposed to opinion.”

Ford added, “The Internet is still kind of the wild west. You know, tradition news organizations, we have editorial processes we follow. Reliable sources, fact checking, even though you have the right to do it, is it the right thing to do? If you’re going online, everybody uses this, goes and does research first before they buy stuff. Make sure you’re doing it in terms of a genuine opinion on your part. Here’s the other thing, don’t try and cloak your statement of fact and say, ‘It’s my … opinion that he damaged my house. It’s my opinion this person is a serial killer.’ Just because you say the word opinion, doesn’t mean it’s no longer a statement of fact. The thing to be careful about a statement of fact that’s false and damages their reputation.”

The rapid evolution of the Internet has left the law struggling to keep up. It has also given consumers a great deal of power over the companies they choose to do business. As more and more people turn to online communities to make purchase decisions the integrity of these reviews will become increasingly important.

Now  for a more even more timely example….

What’s the saying? With great power comes great responsiblity? One online reviewer exercised this power by complaining about Santa on her local mall’s Facebook page over the weekend. She writes:

“Because we did not purchase any photo packages the gentleman mumble something to Santa and when my daughter who is six was going to sit on his lap Santa put his hands together and placed them on his legs so she couldn’t sit on him. Santa was not attentive and brushed her off all because we did not purchase pictures. Why don’t you just put up a sign saying NO PICTURES NO SANTA. My daughter was hurt and I so disappointed. Shame on you!”

Santa was fired this past Monday.



Happy holidays everyone!

For more on both of these stories go to:

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Tragedy and Twitter

December 2, 2012 Leave a comment

The recent tragedy in Kansas City is another example of how more and more we turn to social media in times of tragedy. After Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and fatally shot himself outside the team’s stadium. The NFL kept fans updated on the situation via social media, particularly Twitter. The organization issued the following statement and shared through tweets from @NFL:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chiefs and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, We have connected the Chiefs with our national team of professional counselors to support both the team and the families of those affected. We will continue to provide assistance in any way that we can.”

Fellow NFL players and teams have also used Twitter to react to the news.  Tim Tebow tweeted:

Tim Tebow

Wow… Unbelievable tragedy. My prayers go out to the entire Chiefs organization and their families.

Not only are these Tweets a source of information for the NFL community, Twitter reactions have become a part of our news narrative. A google search of “Twitter” and “tragedies” results in over six pages of news sources writing about the Twitter reactions to the Belcher tragedy. Janet Sternberg, a communications and media studies professor at Fordham University, describes the desire to share emotions over social media, “It’s very personal. It’s unfiltered. The emotions are very real and that is very attractive to people.”
Social media will undoubtedly play an increasing role in the way we deal with tragedy. But does the need to share when a story is trending lead to messages that are half-engaged and lacking true sympathy?
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Social Media ROI

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I nearly every class I have taken at Emerson the ROI of social media eventually comes up. While everyone is in agreement that it is an important part of integrated marketing communication, there is much debate on how to measure the return on investment of social media. I recently came across an older, but I thought very relevant article in the MIT Sloan Review about measuring the ROI of social media marketing.

The article asserts that effective social media measurement should start by turning the traditional ROI approach on its head. Instead of focusing on marketing investments and calculating returns in terms of customer response, the article suggests that managers should begin by considering consumer motivations to use social media and then measure the social media investments customers make as they engage with the marketers’ brands.

A well-designed social media campaign should drive consumers to engage with a company’s brand. That is why it is important that when marketers develop these campaigns they measures customer investment. Instead of emphasizing traditional objectives like direct sales or increases of market share, marketers need emphasize objectives that take advantage of the distinctive characteristics of social media like  brand awareness, engagement of WOM.

The article also goes on the explain that “the advantage of starting with motivations, as opposed to trying to figure out what social media application to use, is that it makes clear how seemingly disparate applications are actually quite similar if they share the same motivations for use.” This makes the creation of integrated marketing campaigns not only much more organic, but also more responsive to online consumer behavior.

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