Generation Y Can Ruin Your Brand in 24 hours You can’t be caught flat-footed in the web these days, even if your brand only has a finger dipped in the sea of social media. Here are 3 examples of how Gen Y can blindside you and your brand, all inspired by the recent hoopla around Kurt Greenbaum, the latest target of the Internet Hate Machine™.

Kurt Greenbaum

Social Media Director (actual job title) Greenbaum took issue with someone leaving a vulgarity in his comments, so Greenbaum put on his best hall-monitor sash and sought out commenter’s employer. Commenter lost his job and Greenbaum gloats in his blog. Blog comments then fill with shock and anger over his breach of privacy policy (and smugness).

Anger snowballs until it hits social news sites, where at this point various people start to slander his name on twitter, novelty blogs and the like. In the course of about a day, his personal contact info (like his home address and his personal mobile) has been published on the web ad nauseum and his blog comments and Flickr account have been overrun with negative feedback. His Google results will forever have a permanent stain.

Fortunately for Greenbaum this is a fairly nerdy violation that this is restricted to social-media-savvy networks on the web (my mother has no clue what a privacy policy even is). But since his job is a “Social Media Director”, I hope he has learned a thing or two about damage control.

The Lesson
Be accountable for everything published on your website. Greenbaum wasn’t familiar with his own privacy policy and has incurred a lot of wrath.

HabitatUK and the Hashtag Spam

The marketing team at Habitat, a UK furniture firm, had a chat one morning…

Nigel: We need to be on Tweeter.
Geoff: You mean Twitter?
Nigel: Right! Whatever!
Geoff: I think my nephew uses that…
Nigel: Great! Throw some money at him and get him in here!

That is probably miles (or 1.6 kilometers) away from what actually happened, but it might as well be true. The company soon started spamming Twitter hashtags for completely unrelated topics. In short, they used the popularity of topics like the Iran election protests and iPhones to advertise a sale. Their tweets showed up at the top of the heap for these hot topics, at which point everyone called them out for spam on an ugly scale.

The Lesson
You target in the real world, you should target (even more) when using social media and relating to Gen Y.

United Airlines

United breaks some guy”s guitar in transit. Guy makes a music video about poor customer service and zero restitution. Gen Y digs the message and spreads it throughout social networks (see: How Things Get Popular On the Internet) and ends up reinforcing the stereotype that United Airlines has awful customer service.

The Lesson
Don’t break anyone’s friggin guitar. United really could not have done anything here outside of improving their customer service, which they said they would do in predictable, standard corporate-speak. The real lesson here is that with the web, you don’t know who the influencers are, so you better step up your customer service game and make sure everyone is happy.

photo by Cathérine