Spoofable and Unspoofable: Two Corporate Social Media Realities

Tom Liacas —  July 18, 2012 — 6 Comments

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?

Tom Liacas

Tom Liacas

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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.
  • Albert

    I was interested about the McDonald’s site, which is very savvy indeed (and “unspoofable”, yes). I feel that as a consumer/citizen, though, I would prefer this to be on some sort of “neutral” platform like twitter or facebook. The fact that it is on their own website makes it feel as though they are controlling the process and can turn it off at any time (I’m not sure a corporation would participate in this type of exercise if the process were controlled by “activists”). Judging by the participation, though, perhaps that it is not a widely-felt concern. 



    •  Hey Albert, thanks for your comment! Ultimately, you’re right, a third party platform for exchanges between a corporation and its public would be the most transparent and level playing field. Unfortunately, McDonald’s is just coming out of a public roasting on Twitter after the launched #McDStories (more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/24/mcdonalds-mcdstories-twitter-campaign-fails-_n_1226811.html) so I imagine it will be some time before they march back out into the open playground!

      • I don’t know, any business that lets a comment about “anti-vomit” show up that prominently probably isn’t hiding anything. I don’t see any reason here not to trust it, but have to wonder if this kind of publicity is helpful to them. Do I respect the brand more for it? Sure. Does it contribute to public perception that there is something wrong with you if you eat at McDonald’s? Also yes.

        • I appreciate your sentiment. But think about McDonald’s. We all grew up eating this stuff and how many times did we hear a rumor about what went into it? Nothing asked on the page is not something we have all mulled over before in private. This brand has every advantage to take these myths head on and put them to rest. I believe in doing this, they are converting ex consumers back to active. I refuse to comment on the date of my last Big Mac purchase, however 😉

          • Ha! Sometimes only the “special sauce” will do. I see your point, and it’s not as if they are hurting despite all the silly stories and urban legends.

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