It must have seemed like a great idea: a natural disaster, a global outpouring of sympathy, a donation engine from the world’s largest software maker and a way of consumer support on the web translating straight into donations. But the nuances of social media can be subtle, and here’s what Microsoft are learning, fast…
It’s looking like another lesson in the dos and don’ts of Twitter hashtags with a global brand stumbling into an uncomfortable space.
What Microsoft were trying to do was use consumer involvement in Twitter as a way of increasing the amount they were donating. But consumers are savvy to new memes and the way brands are racing to get their Twitter presence propagated and that’s where the problem began.
Their Twitter campaign linked the amount of donations to Japan to the number of tracked retweets that Microsoft would get. So yes, it was about donations – but it was also about promoting Bing as a search engine, and the two simply didn’t mix.
Here’s the actual Microsoft Tweet that caused the problem was: “How you can #SupportJapan – http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K.”
Within hours Microsoft had apologised, and wisely freed-up the whole of its charity budget to ensure a sizable donation of USD$100k straight to the disaster relief fund.
Contrast that to Google where the Person Finder tool is giving tangible benefit to relief agencies and people caught up in the unfolding horrors in Japan. Google’s focus on product development and the application of service – vs Microsoft’s focus on marketing is a good reminder for any digital service business that what travels well on the web is brilliance in the quality of the service, and not how much people are paid to talk about it