Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shame on Eat24 (and Why Your Brand Should Not Repeat Its Facebook Mistake)

I trust this blog post is unnecessary and that company leaders are smart enough to know they must maintain a presence on Facebook, regardless of the marketing challenges on the platform. But given that a small brand abandoning Facebook has been big news this week, a gentle caution may be in order.

In a shot heard round the social media world, food delivery company Eat24 lambasted Facebook for lying about brands' marketing opportunities, then deleted its Facebook fan page. I am sure a lot of frustrated and sympathetic marketers were jealous of Eat24's move. With organic reach getting harder to achieve, some marketers have been left wondering what the point is on Facebook.

The point is that your customers are there, and they have expectations, needs and questions. By deleting its fan page, Eat24 thought it was striking a blow against the Facebook "man," but the company sent an even more powerful and damning message to its customers. The company's actions were not a shot against Facebook (because the social network does not actually make money off of fan pages and organic posts) but against those 71,000 people who had liked the brand, as well as all future customers who might have wanted to interact with the company on Facebook.

Eat24 left a bitter and humorous post for Facebook before deleting its fan page, but here is what it really said to customers:
Dear Customers, 
We were not on Facebook for you but for us. Did you think we maintained our Facebook profile to listen or furnish value to you? Don't be silly--we were there to acquire new customers, and when you failed to help us do that, we decided you were no longer worth the effort. Your likes, shares and comments were of interest only to the extent we could exploit them for marketing gain, and frankly, you didn't help us very much, did you?
Did you expect to reach us with inquiries here on Facebook? We don't care--we were here for the free marketing, not to listen to your whiny requests, ideas, complaints or needs. Is Facebook a preferred channel for you to contact brands? Who cares--chase us to the platforms we prefer.
And to think we wasted all that time coming up uninteresting posts for you to ignore! Really, we expected so much better of you. Our Facebook fans have been a real disappointment, and we hope Twitter users will remember the one important thing about Eat24: We're not here for you; you're here for us! So get retweeting... or else!

The funny thing is that Eat24 thinks it has deleted its presence on Facebook, but it is still easy to find--only now the company is absent and unable to manage or protect its brand on the world's largest and most active social network. The primary brand page may be gone, but not this page. It was launched two weeks ago and looks like an Eat24 page, but is it? Customers are confused--one posted "Nice to see you back" and another added "I knew you'd be back"--but are fans liking an official company page or a page launched by a spammer? Who knows?

Of course, that is not the only Eat24 page. There's this page, also launched two weeks and looking quite official. And this one, apparently launched by a fan. And this one. And this one. Consumers expect brands to be on Facebook, and now when a customer goes searching for the company, there is no telling what they will find or to which pages they will connect.

If your brand is disappointed in the shrinking opportunities for earned media on Facebook, it ought to reconsider its options, but deleting the company page is not one of them. If you are investing too much in organic content that is not delivering the value desired, post less. (Problem solved!) Or reconsider if Facebook is really a marketing channel aside from the opportunities offered by its paid media offerings. Now is the right time to reassess if your Facebook page might be better suited for customer care, advocate programs and reputation management rather than for acquisition, awareness and conversion.

Does this look like abandoning customer
care on Twitter? 
My prediction is that Eat24 will be back; it would not be the first brand to make a big show of abandoning a social network, only to return with its tail between its legs. A year and a half ago, Charter Communications announced it would cease customer care on Twitter. At the time, I predicted Charter would reverse course, and it has. While the company has not relaunched a customer service profile, it is actively answering customer complaints and requests via its @Charter Twitter presence. Charter found it could not ignore customers' preferred channels, and Eat24 will likely learn the same lesson.

There was a time when companies threatened to abandon their early websites because the sites failed to drive the marketing value expected. Today, brand websites are less about marketing than sales, service, recruiting, education, investor relations and other business objectives. So, too, will it go with Facebook and other social platforms. Smart brands will find the right way to create value, both for the company and its customers.

I do not believe brands will follow Eat24's lead, because smarter and cooler heads will prevail. Eat24 has cut off its nose to spite its face, but smarter brands will sniff around for other ways to create value.


Mike Wise said...

Incredibly spot on, Augie. It's amazing how myopic decision makers can be in decision making processes like this. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. As always, thanks for taking the time and sharing.

Augie Ray said...

I figure it seemed like great fun in that meeting you reference. Once person suggested the idea of deleting the Facebook page, another suggest a snarky line or two for the blog post, and before long it seemed like a good idea. I wonder if, in the end, someone might lose their job because of this decision. It's all fun and games until consumers start complaining or connecting to spammers because the brand was too busy being smug.

Thanks for the comment and the tweet!

Tom Snyder said...

Myopic indeed.

I remember the TV commercial of a local retailer years ago that consisted of the son of the owner trying to convince dad that they needed a website. Every benefit offered as a reason to have a website was answered by the father saying "they just need to come to our store." Eventually the father won, and the tagline on the commercial boasted "Two Locations... NO WEBSITE!" Apparently they learned their lesson because not only did they launch a site shortly after, but they launched their Facebook page in 2008, earlier than many.

Augie Ray said...

Borders didn't think it needed a sweb site, either, so they farmed out their ecommerce operations to Amazon. Oops! No Website... no locations! :)