Until today, WillVideoForFood didn’t have a “Greatest Corporate Social-Media Collapse” Award, but it’s now going to the uncontested “winner.”
Best Buy, a company once known for its savvy social-media presence spearheaded by Barry Judge (seen below, searching Monster.com for jobs at Circuit City), has gone from great to mediocre to embarrassing… in just a few months.
Perhaps someone with the time and patience to run some social-media monitoring analysis can use a quantitative tool to validate Best Buy/Geek Squad’s sentiment decline (a free one, Radian6 or some others listed here). But here are three recent and vivid examples of a company whose arrogance — demonstrated by aggressive attorneys, PR apathy, and poor employee relations — has made it the undisputed 2010 winner (or loser). I’m sure someone else can better document numerous other episodes that precede and follow these, but here is what WVFF judges used to base their decision:
1) Geek Squad Driver Calls Cops on YouTuber: A Geek Squad (Best Buy’s beloved repair team) van driver spotted this blogger and video creator shooting some b-roll of a van. My intent? To make a parody of a technical repair superhero responding to absurd computer requests (can you fix my cup holder? Oh that’s a CD-ROM drive?). The video, which might have been a humorous and free consumer-generated advertisement for Geek Squad, instead resulted in this… seen by a quarter of a million viewers. The driver called the police and “Nalts” got a fine for reckless driving.
Hey I’m biased here, but you know that. I’m part of the story, and wasn’t thrilled to get pulled over and fined because a Geek Squad driver got paranoid (perhaps he feared I was doing a video expose on his wicked speeding). Sensing his unease, at a red light I handed him my business card, smiled, and explained my video concept. The NJ police officer said the driver interpreted that as threatening gesture and dangerous. Really? But we can forgive a company for a freaky driver, but it was poor form for Best Buy to ignore me. I wrote the company’s PR group, and a simple apology would have probably brought me right back. Did I mention I captured that driver again two weeks ago? I think he was selling ice-cream and crack cocaine this time, but don’t quote me on that.
2) Best Buy Intimidates Employee for Parody Video With No Mention of Creator’s Employer: Then there was poor Brian Maupin, a Best Buy employee who was fired (or as Best Buy would prefer you conclude: was suspended, rehired, and quit under duress) for this funny “iPhone vs HTC Evo” video seen by 7 million. The video didn’t mention the creator worked for Best Buy, and there’s this whole “freedom of speech” thing that Best Buy’s social-media policy seems to have forgotten. But Maupin knew the event undermined his chances to ascend to Assistant to the Regional Store Manager.
3) Geek Squad Sues Catholic Priest. Now the Geek Squad is protecting its rapidly-depreciating Geek Squad trademark (see undercover expose) by suing a priest who created a God Squad logo (readers of The National Catholic Register will no doubt boycott the store). While we understand trademark vigilance, we believe this Wisconsin Priest (Father Luke Strand) might have been handled with a bit more diplomacy, and Geek.com agrees… calling it a “PR nightmare.” Yeah, when a corporation sues a priest… Catholics (and there are a few of us) aren’t going to be thinking about trademarks when we go elsewhere for our electronics.
Please comment below… and I invite anyone to defend each of Best Buy’s actions. It’s hard to give up on a company you love, and I’ve seen some interesting debates on various articles and blogs. I’d also like to invite anyone to join me on a 2010 boycott of Best Buy. There’s even a Facebook page to boycott Best Buy (apparently they fund anti-gay politics). I haven’t walked into the store since the po-po pulled me over, and the Maupin story gave me more resolve. But now they’re messing with a Priest? I read the Best Buy circular weekly, and never went more than 10 days without shopping there. But I’m done with the store for 2010. We’ll see if Barry or a well-meaning public-relations firm can turn this around, and revisit them in 2011.
Hey at least I have a great case study for the sequel to Beyond Viral (now available for pre-order on Amazon). Did I mention Amazon also sells electronics?