August 2009

There is a very thought-provoking blog post by Lauren Fernandez that created some interesting discussion here at the AHA office. At the heart of it is the question – do we conform to social media standards or should they conform to us?

The challenge that Whole Foods is facing is an example; social media became a big part of this issue. Thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other tools, more people learned about the letter and could weigh in, making their opinions known.

Should the CEO of Whole Foods NOT have written the letter to the editor because it could create a backlash, especially online, even though this was how he felt? Is the personal opinion of the CEO inextricably tied to the brand? Does “authentic” mean different things to different people and would keeping his opinion to himself, because of the risk to the brand, mean that the CEO isn’t authentic?

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Doug Schumacher has a good piece on iMediaConnection that showcases how valuable social media can be. He wraps it in the context that social media is safer than you think. I am not so sure that safe is a word I would use for social media, although he does make a good point about it.

Social media provides your organization with the opportunity to engage people that are interested in your brand, your services, your products, and in what you do for your community. It can create a solid support system from your followers and fans, but these are people with opinions and ideas that might not necessarily mesh with yours. Doug writes from an advertising/marketing viewpoint, so perhaps this is where we view the meaning of “safe” differently.

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Gerard Braud has an excellent article on the fallout of Whole Foods CEO (U.S.) John MacKay’s position on health care reform in the U.S.

There has been a huge backlash to MacKay’s letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal. There is now a movement to boycott Whole Foods – there is a Facebook page, a blog and you can follow the boycott on Twitter.

MacKay is entitled to his opinion. However, publishing that opinion in the Wall Street Journal might not have been the best use of his profile.

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We have had several new business meetings over the past week or so and the discussion always turns to what the organization can be doing in regards to social media. Econsultancy.com has a helpful post titled: Five easy ways to make your business website more social.

Not everyone is ready to leap into social media full throttle, but it is important to start the process of listening. See what people in your industry/area of expertise are doing online. Pay attention to the conversations that are happening. It’s a good first step into connecting with your specific community.

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