Two very recent expressions of corporate social media presence have caught my attention because they push the envelope of brand interactivity. I see these two as a sign of things to come, offering caution and promise for productive human-corporate exchanges in the future.
The Spoofable: The Yes Men’s Shell Arctic Ready
Very clever hoax website crafted by the Yes Men, a group of pranksters with a long history of subverting corporate culture and global politics in elaborate and painstakingly-crafted ways. The false premise is that Shell opened up an online invitation to the public to create custom slogans to add to its Arctic images to promote its northern oil and gas exploration projects. The published slogans make it look like opponents overran the site and turned it against the company. Why does it work so well? Because we have seen other corporations open the doors to social interaction and fail miserably. Because we want to see an energy giant slip on such a banana peel. What could Shell have done to prevent this? Establish proactive and aggressive social media presence that would answer tough questions before they were even asked and then be less of a static target for this kind of thing. For the record, Shell had innovated in establishing a line of honest communication between itself and NGOs through the Shell Dialogues. Unfortunately for them, I think this stayed too much under the radar when it should have been spread far and wide.
The Unspoofable: McDonald’s Yourquestions Site
Who’s doing social media right? Answer: McDonald’s Canada is! After all, what other fast food brand out there lets questions like “Is there an anti-vomit in the mcdonald food?” float prominently on its site and then proceed to answer them in detail. Honestly, I am bummed not to have been involved in this exemplary display of digital transparency! What could a critic do to spoof this? Not much. Even their most vicious and sarcastic questions will be published and addressed… Transparency and humility are disarming. That is the last thing we expect from a corporation and, when it is practiced, a lot of the heat goes out of attacks. After all, if corporations started listening and addressing public concerns actively, where would the problem be?