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Two Brief Social Media Case Studies

I attended BrandCamp University this week which was hosted at the beautiful waterfront offices of Foley Hoag, one of the leading law firms for venture capital funds and the entrepreneurial companies they fund. I took extensive notes and I highly recommend that you attend an event near you if you get the chance. There were great educational pieces done by Peter Shankman (HORA), Laura Fitton (OneForty now Hubspot) and CC Chapman (author of Content Rules and social media consultant). Each of these entrepreneurs and bloggers shared their knowledge and their passions which helped to foster a great energy in the packed house. I’ll share just two brief examples that many in the venture capital and tech community probably missed:

Ragu Pasta Sauce decided it would be a good idea to send their new marketing pitch to a bunch of influential bloggers with the hope that they’d write about it. It worked but just not the way they had hoped. The campaign took a cheap shot at dad’s whose version of making dinner was to fire up the grill or make waffles. You can read CC Chapman’s response to the ads here …

Plenty of dads, including CC do quite a bit of work around the house and deserve some level of credit. (Just to be clear, I’m a slacker of the highest order but even I do the dishes). I’m sure you’d agree that CC’s response was not what Ragu Pasta Sauce was hoping for…but it gets worse. Instead of replying thoughtfully and saying something like ‘hey we’re sorry, that’s not what we meant’, Ragu went silent and then got defensive. It took them three days, presumably having high level internal meetings to strategize and craft a response that was approved by legal. By that time, things had spiraled out of control. Other bloggers picked up the thread and it became a feeding frenzy. In social media, there is a presumption of speed and a need for genuine interaction – not canned corporate responses. Ragu blew it but it is unlikely to cause lasting damage. If the taste of Ragu Pasta Sauce hasn’t deterred their sales, a blog post isn’t likely to hurt that much.

My personal rule is that when things get sideways in social media or more commonly in email, I pick up the phone or visit someone in person. There’s just too much room for misinterpretation in a written medium. In social media, that’s not always possible so the speed and sincerity of the response is critical. If you’d like to see an example of social media done right, check out this video about a poor customer service experience at Dunkin Donuts turned into a testimonial. Props to @savvybostonian for turning a complaint into a great customer service experience. We all work hard to build reference-able clients. Social media done right is an opportunity to help spread that message and create IRL (in real life) relationships.

BTW, I have my annual physical exam this morning. That means I’m in the bubble this weekend – in between the physical exam and getting the results back. That means this is an ‘all-you-can-eat’ weekend and I don’t mean Ragu. Gotta love it!

Tim O’Loughlin

Eastward Capital Partners

432 Cherry Street

West Newton, MA 02465

o: (617) 762-3611

c: (617) 947-6272

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Eastward Capital Partners – providing $1 – 10 million venture debt, growth capital and equipment financing to venture-backed, emerging growth companies since 1994. We also provide expansion capital to non venture backed companies.


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One thought on “Two Brief Social Media Case Studies

  1. Thanks for sharing this story and giving another perspective on the whole Ragu mess.

    I agree that they could learn a lot from Dunkin Donuts. I’ve been a fan of the brand for a long time and loved hearing about all the ways they approach social and what they are doing on it. Every brand could learn something from them.

    I loved Brand Camp as well. Even though many of the speakers were friends of mine, it was great to hear stories I had never heard and walk away inspired.

    Hope everything goes well this weekend.

    Posted by C.C. Chapman | October 7, 2011, 8:17 am

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