Social media as a double-edged sword

Helloooo everyone!

Came across the Domino’s Pizza example online and found some interesting information related to what was mentioned in class last Saturday. It’s about social media as a double-edged sword which I would like to share it here with everybody.

What happened at Domino’s Pizza?

  • On Easter Sunday in April 2009, two Domino’s employees who were bored working in a North Carolina outlet thought it would be hilarious to post a video of themselves, demonstrating their grotesque adulteration of food.
  • The duo created five videos in total, one of which showed an individual sticking mozzarella cheese up his nose and then blowing the cheese on a sandwich, among other unsanitary and stomach-turning activities.
  • They then uploaded these videos on Youtube, gathering an estimated number of 1 million viewers within two days after the videos surfaced the social media platform.
  • This case clearly reflects issues that arise from employee’s misbehavior leading to a reputational damage of the company, which is further exacerbated by the viral ability of social media.

So, what happens after this incident is exposed?

  • 24 hours after the upload, the Corporate Communications team surveyed the situation and determined that the videos were not a hoax. They managed to identify the rogue employees.
  • By Tuesday (the third day), the team was responding to customers’ queries on Twitter about whether the company knew about the situation, what the company was doing, and why the company had not issued an official statement.
  • By Wednesday (the fourth day), Patrick Doyle, President of Domino’s Pizza, recorded an apology that was then uploaded onto YouTube.
  • This strategy and decision to fight the crisis’ viral nature using YouTube was the tipping point that allowed the company to cull user-generated content from social networking sites and use the platform to distribute information back to users.
  • This case also showed that Domino understood the critical importance of the use of social media, that is, since the crisis occurred online, the organisation had to deal with the management of the crisis via an online presence to reach out to the targeted audience.

I find that what’s interesting about social media is that when there is a bad PR, it can create a powerful whirlwind spreading like wildfire within a short time. Likewise any good news on social media can also spread with a loud bang.

Therefore, social media can be seen as a double-edged sword. If it is used appropriately, the returns is immense; however, any bad PR will spread quickly too.

However, I think that the additional advantage social media has is that it can be used to counter any bad news like what the PR practitioners did in Domino’s case.

The PR practitioners at Domino reacted to adverse publicity using the same medium, YouTube to counter its adversaries. In fact the social media allows for quick response, virtually open 24/7 throughout and its reach is wide and far unlike the printed newspapers or press conferences which only get to publish any communication the next day.

To sum it up, the Domino’s Pizza case questions the efficacy of how social media can be harnessed to produce benefits or harm, just like how we discussed during class that social media can act as a double-edged sword.

I would suggest that Domino’s Pizza could also work on implementing reactive, neutral and proactive social media policies to mitigate future reputational damage to the organisation.

What are your thoughts about the power of social media? Any comments or insights into other cases which show invincibility of the social media?

 

For more information, you may visit:

Young, C. L., & Flowers, A. (2012). Fight viral with viral: A case study of Domino’s Pizza’s crisis communication strategies. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 1, article 6. Available online: http://cssc.uscannenberg.org/cases/v1/v1art6

 

Thank you for reading my post and have a great week ahead!

 

 

One thought on “Social media as a double-edged sword

  1. Hi Nina!

    Thanks for sharing this interesting read. It has definitely lent a more complete backdrop to the incident!

    As we have discussed in class, it is clear that the key concern highlighted by this issue is the fact that employees’ misuse of their private social media channels can severely impact a company’s reputation. At first blush, we may wonder why employees appear to be more rampant than in the past with similar incidents on the rise. But this is not the case. Such behaviour has simply begun to drawn more attention (and perhaps gone viral) from a wider audience with the introduction of social media. These platforms empower employees to be more verbal, and can be easily spread across networks rapidly. It is this connectivity that grants social media its unparalleled power as a communication channel.

    We can then easily see that organisations do not have complete control over this double-edged sword in managing its reputation. Does this in turn suggest that organisations are now responsible for not only their own actions as an entity communicated on social media platforms, but also that of their employees?

    Such a task, which is near impossible, poses a significant challenge to organisations. This perhaps indicates the importance of designing robust reactive policies, including damage control, which has been illustrated by the Domino’s Pizza incident. One way to do so is through the use of social media, since it allows for quick response to a large audience. At the same time, considerable care should be taken depending on the incident at hand. As we have observed from examples discussed in class, using social media as a channel to disseminate information may end up backfiring when perceived by the public to be impersonal or insensitive. It is then interesting to note that the Corporate Communications team at Domino’s was able to successfully utilise social media to rectify the situation. As you have pointed out, this was largely because the issue was stemmed from one that spiralled out of control on social media; using these same platforms meant that Domino’s was able to reach out effectively to their intended audiences. These (positive) official videos produced by Domino’s were hence likely widely shared, riding on the coat-tails of the viral effect of the initial negative videos.

    On the other hand, the fact that proactive policies may be difficult to enforce does not mean that organisations should simply give up. This is because the lack of guidelines can create loopholes that allow employees to challenge action taken against them following misconduct. Consequently, having clear proactive policies can ironically reinforce and justify reactive and disciplinary policies, which can in turn deter future misconduct.

    Liked by 1 person

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