Amazon and The Power of Social Media

by Sharlyn Lauby on April 13, 2009

You guys know that I’m a customer service freak.  I’ve said many times that customer service is the new marketing.  So it won’t come as any surprise that one of my favorite blogs is called “Church of the Customer.”

They published a post today about the recent happenings at Amazon.  If you’re not already aware, it appears that Amazon deleted the sales rankings from hundreds of gay and lesbian themed books.  The customer revolt was swift which should be a lesson to all businesses about the power of social media.

Within 24 hours:

  • The story became the numero uno topic on Twitter
  • Had over 5,000 blog posts written about it
  • A Facebook page was started and over 1,500 people have joined
  • An online petition with over 9,000 signatures was generated

And the list goes on…

Folks, if this doesn’t tell you how powerful and immediate social media is…nothing will.

The Bartender has been a fan of Amazon for many years.  But, I’m very disappointed that, as of today, nothing was posted on the Amazon home page or Twitter account.  Even if someone at Amazon made some bonehead move…buck it up, admit your mistake and fix it.  I can respect companies that admit when they’ve botched something up.

But in writing this post, there are a couple of additional learnings from this situation that I wanted to share.

When you blog or tweet or publish anything, consider the damage you could be causing.  Yeah, I must admit there are plenty of times that I’ve wanted to tell the world about something I don’t like…but I would much prefer to tell you about the great stuff going on in the world.

Companies need to be consistent.  If you don’t want to sell ‘adult’ content…fine, don’t sell it.  But don’t unrank Ellen DeGeneres autobiography and rank Ron Jeremy’s book.  Customers will not understand your logic.

In researching this article I did discover that Amazon sells dog fighting books.  So until I can understand Amazon, you’ll notice that the Bartender did a little Spring Cleaning…all Amazon affiliate links have been taken down.

{ 10 comments }

Tracy Tran April 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

This is what the book stores have been waiting for. If I were Borders and Barnes and Noble, I better market now to get new customers in….and drop their prices a little.

Havrilla April 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

You are so right – customer service really is the new marketing. I think there is going to be a huge lesson learned here about the power, speed, reach, effect, and influence of social media — and how businesses utilize it effectively.

And the fact that they can’t ignore it — the discussions will be had. but will and how will they be a part of it. Another potential lesson to be learned will surely be unfolding as we watch to see if/how they do finally addresss on their home page, Twitter account, or wherever…

Fantastic post, Sharlyn … as always!!

Steve Boese April 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I think the most shocking and bothersome aspect of all of this, is that Ron Jeremy got a book deal.

Great post once again, Sharlyn!

Kerry April 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm

The Consumerist is reporting that this is apparently the work of a hacker, not Amazon.

I don’t have any affiliation with Amazon (other than as a customer), but I imagine they were scrambling to figure out what had happened, and that’s why we didn’t hear from them immediately.

Michael Long (The Red Recruiter) April 14, 2009 at 3:54 am

It really comes down to our new ability to organize so quickly. Something like this would have been next to impossible even five years ago! This is one of the many reasons why social media is so fascinating to me. Like you, I hope that it’s a power more frequently harnessed for good than negativity as it evolves.

While I think that the situation with Amazon is unfortunate, it sounds as if they are going to be fixing the issue… and quickly! Go figure ;-)

“I can respect companies that admit when they’ve botched something up.”

Accountability is the future of business. Those companies who understand and accept this will thrive – those who do not, will not.

I think I need you to pour me another shot of reality so that I can get back to work! Thanks for the post!

Looking forward,
Michael (The Red Recruiter)

Brian Batchelder April 14, 2009 at 8:46 am

I think you said it perfectly here: “When you blog or tweet or publish anything, consider the damage you could be causing. Yeah, I must admit there are plenty of times that I’ve wanted to tell the world about something I don’t like…but I would much prefer to tell you about the great stuff going on in the world.”

As a new blogger, I keep that in mind with every post I write.

Brian
http://www.brianbatchelder.com

Puf April 14, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I’ve heard the hacker take on this, and a part of me really hopes that’s true, Amazon can’t be that messed up, but even if that is the case you have to respond publicly quickly. The world moves too fast, and you must be nimble. Damage progresses at an exponential pace here on the intergoogles!

MLDina April 15, 2009 at 11:31 am

I’m a bit shocked that a huge online presence like Amazon wouldn’t be searching the social media sites on a frequent basis and responding to issues. The problem you brought up is also disappointing to me (ranking Ron Jeremy but not Ellen, dog fighting books v. adult content), because it’s completely inconsistent- an essential to customer service!

If you’re selling shoes, for instance- and you have one pitch about high fashion, low comfort, and another focusing on comfort, what does that say to your customer? You’re just making it up as you go along? I’m interested to see the follow up from Amazon, but that definitely loses points in my book. I want comfort and style- and consistency.

hr bartender April 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

Thanks for all the great comments! It looks like Amazon has fessed up (sort of) and is trying to fix the problem. Regardless, they could have and should have handled the whole thing much better. To quote Mediashift:

“(Amazon’s) statement is thoughtful and well-crafted but lacked both punctuality and contrition.”

It’s inexcusable for a company such as Amazon to have this kind of problem. Let’s see if they can recover.

Kerry April 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm

This seems to have unfolded over Easter weekend (which is typically a time when a lot of people are traveling and/or visiting family). Is it possible that they just didn’t have enough time to figure out what the problem was and decide how to address it?

I’m not necessarily defending Amazon. I’m just a little uncomfortable with how quickly a very large pool of negativity developed, before the company had had a business day or so to find, correct and address the problem.

The stuff we put out there about companies lives on the internet forever. I’m concerned that social media has made it really easy for us to schedule the hanging before the trial is over. I think it’s also made us so hungry for now now NOW responses that we’re maybe a little unreasonable in what constitutes “punctuality.” In my experience, some snafus can’t be figured out in the space of a day (especially if it’s a major holiday).

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