Disruptive Social Media Moments in Business

Tom Liacas —  August 19, 2012 — 9 Comments
Social media networks, through the power they have given to individuals, are by nature disruptive. Not a month goes by these days that we don’t hear of another government or corporation shaken and humbled by a lightning-speed mobilization of online people power. This article is part of a series that seeks to catalog the most notable social media disruptions of politics, business and culture.

Last time, I covered shakeups of the established order in Politics. This is a draft of another book chapter I want to write. I need your help to find more cases of brands or industries being disrupted via social networks as no exhaustive list of these exists. Some of my examples are globally known, some very local to Canada or Québec. I know I am missing some, do you know of others?

1. Nestle Kit Kat Greenpeace Attack

When Greenpeace linked Nestle’s use of Palm oil to the killing of Orang Utangs in Indonesia, they went all out with a social media campaign, featuring a gruesome spoof video, to drive the point home. As the controversy struck Nestle’s Facebook page, the brand promptly shut it down giving rise to a tidal wave of reactions elsewhere. The Youtube video, spoofing the Kit Kat commercial went viral and Nestle ended up rethinking its use of Palm oil, with applause from Greenpeace (who had won the match hands down).


2. ‘Dell Hell

In 2005, writer and online influencer Jeff Jarvis was infuriated by the horrible customer relations and runarounds he faced at the hands of Dell’s afterservice. His one man crusade against Dell, taking the form of a forum that gathered horror stories of Dell customer mistreatment, ignited his following, many of whom were infuencers themselves, and grew into a full scale brand bash-a-thon. As the company reeled from the PR nightmare and scrambled to realign its service practices, Dell’s CEO invited Jarvis to consult and help with the renewal.This story, though an oldie in social media terms, has become a classic. A Businessweek article tells it in more detail here.


3. United Breaks Guitars

One fine day, United Airlines’ rough handed baggage crew tossed the wrong guy’s guitar onto the tarmac. Canadian singer songwriter Dave Carroll, greatly disturbed by the smashing of his prized instrument, was inspired to not only compose and record a song about it, he went all out and generated a Youtube video which has become the stuff of legend. Definitely worth a look. You DO NOT want to be this airline!

12 million views!


3. Rogers Canada ‘hashtag n’ learn’

The hashtag #Rogers1Number referred to a new service the company was launching. To give the hashtag some major legs, Roger’s paid to have it site atop Twitter’s list of trending topics for 24 hours. The result: Hundreds of customers, past and present, airing beefs about a thousand and one Roger’s service failings, rather than riffing on the new service offering as someone may have foolishly have hoped.

4. Oasis Juice Quebec

Here in my backyard, a leading juice brand was waging a legal battle against a small mom and pop brand that shared the Oasis name (but did not even compete directly with the larger brand). Somehow, influential tweeters caught wind of this and the news spread like wildfire in 24hrs. Oasis, having no social media strategy or infrastructure was caught on the defensive using a press conference to get their story out when it was way too late. The thousands of brand-damaging challenges online went unanswered and a local brand name in fruit juices will taste sour in the memory of many for some time. I am quite sure that that some social media staff or service searches are being made at Oasis these days.


5. Labatts, Beer of Choice for Psycho Killers

In Canada, recently discovered psycopath celebrity Magnotta, who had dismembered a young man and mailed his body parts across the country, was seen enjoying a bottle of Labatts beer in a widely circulated photo. When the beer brand jumped in to smother the sharing in a heavy handed way, social media peeps began sharing like crazy with the hashtag -#newlabattcampaign (no longer active). A Huffington Post article tells the full story here.

Over to you, readers! Pls add some more examples you know of in the comments below.
Tom Liacas

Tom Liacas

Posts Twitter Google+

An M.A. graduate in Media Studies, Tom Liacas is an experienced Social Network Strategist who first cut his teeth creating and managing advocacy campaigns as an activist.