December 15, 2011
When Social Juice Turns Sour: A Less Than Merry Holiday for Lowe’s
Lowe’s Home Improvement shot to the top of Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index, breaking all kinds of records—for all the wrong reasons.
In case you missed this story, say, because you’ve spent the week in a sensory deprivation tank, here’s the short of it. Lowe’s had purchased time and was running spots on a new TLC reality show titled “All-American Muslim.” This ad buy evidently generated a number of complaints, whipped up, it appears, by a relatively (previously) unknown conservative group called The Florida Family Association. According to most reports, Lowe’s pulled its ads in response to these complaints. This action generated a firestorm.
Lowe’s RSJI score jumped 330 points to 391 on Tuesday, December 13. It jumped another 97 points on Wednesday, and then spiked a scary 469 points on Thursday, topping out at 896. (For comparison, the average RSJI number for 408 brands currently being scored by Media Logic was 46 on Thursday. The #2 brand on the Index, American Girl, scored 267. The previous record high score was 450, again by American Girl.)
Lowe’s number is clearly exceptional. And in this case, it is exceptionally bad. The question is, can it teach us something?
ABOUT MEDIA LOGIC’S RETAIL SOCIAL JUICE INDEX
Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index (RSJI), quite intentionally, does not factor sentiment into its scores. The RSJI measures engagement. Good or bad.
As you follow the Index, you will sometimes notice spikes in brand scores. If you trace those spikes back to their sources, you will find some are the results of promotions and others are due to big customer service issues, like technology glitches during major sales. Sometimes, even, arguments break out between customers. When this happens, engagement scores can really shoot up. The question is, when an argument breaks out on a brand’s Facebook page, what should the owner of that page do?
NOW, BACK TO THE LOWE’S STORY
On Saturday, December 10, after the news broke about Lowe’s pulling its ad buy, the company posted a status update to its Facebook wall that began, “It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate.” With that sort of non-apology apology, Lowe’s only stepped into it deeper. The post made people madder. The argument only grew hotter. And Lowe’s, rather than confront the problem, did almost nothing for the next four days.
Between Saturday and Wednesday, Lowe’s allowed an ugly and very off-brand political argument to rage on its Facebook wall. Tens of thousands of comments were posted, many very aggressive and more than a few pointedly racist. Apparently, the company did try to exercise some very modest control (several people complained about posts being deleted), but active moderation by Lowe’s appears to have been minimal.
Finally, on Wednesday, December 15, Lowe’s deleted its Saturday apology post along with all 28,000 comments. It also closed its wall to fan posts, effectively deleting thousands of comments there, as well. At about 2 p.m., Lowe’s posted a new status update that read, in part, “For several days, our Facebook page has become a forum of debate surrounding a TLC program. … Some of the comments have been sharp and disrespectful in tone, but out of respect for the transparency of social media, we let the debate continue.”
Really? Do brands have an obligation to host open political debate on their Facebook pages? Frankly, in our opinion as marketers, and as humans, Lowe’s could have – and should have – exercised more control over its Facebook page immediately after the first openly hostile comments were posted on Saturday. As Media Logic Conversation Manager Carolee Sherwood says, “A brand has a responsibility in all its communities – the Facebook wall being one – to make sure the environment is conducive to community and respectful.”
WHAT’S A BRAND TO DO?
The manager of a brand’s social space has the same right – and the same obligation – as the manager of a store. Whether the argument breaks out in the aisles or on its wall, for the safety of other shoppers, the combatants should be asked to quiet down. If they don’t, they should be asked, or made, to leave.
*Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index combines several metrics measured over a 7-day period. Lowe’s RSJI number reported on Tuesday, December 13 factors engagement on the brand’s primary Facebook page and Twitter stream between December 5 and December 11.