Why Big Companies Are So Scared of Social Media

Too Often They're Not Seeking Out the Unusual Suspects

By Published on .

Sure there are success stories among the big companies that have dipped their toes in the social-media water. But the vast majority of giant companies are still absolutely terrified of social media. Given that even corn flakes are part of social media these days, that's a lot of fear.

The mommy meganiche strikes
It seems doubtful that Motrin was anything but fearful when a swarm of thousands of mommy bloggers and Twitter moms attacked their ad about baby slings last week. Motrin took down the ad within hours, substituting a humorless e-mail that Seth Godin described as "the carefully crafted non-statement of a committee." And a missed opportunity to connect to the mommy meganiche to build bridges.

Before you could say "pain in the neck," someone calling themselves "imperfectparent" had posted a funny "Motrin commercial alternative" on YouTube, where it's had 8,000 views in just one day. At least someone had a sense of humor!

Instead of issuing their own good-natured and humorous response, Motrin has remained deadly serious, ending up looking rather silly.

Fred makes a splash
It's easy to see how social media can confuse CMOs and CEOs, not to mention ad agencies. Fred, a 15-year-old boy who sounds like he inhaled helium, snagged 11 million views and 70,000 comments for one of his recent "Fred Goes Swimming" videos. A video featuring nothing more than a pair of "daft hands" gets nearly 26 million downloads and 83,000 comments, and a video of the young men belonging to those hands eating corn flakes quickly got 17,000 views.

B.L. Ochman B.L. Ochman also writes the popular What's Next Blog.
It's doubtful that most corporate types even know that these videos, or sites like YTMND and 4chan exist, let alone that they get more page views in a week than many corporate sites get in a decade.

Niche bites man
YTMND stands for "You're the man now, dog," a line Sean Connery said in the movie "Finding Forrester" in 2000. The site, supported entirely by Google ads, hosts tens of thousands of user-created pages that combine a background image, a sound clip and rudimentary animation. According to the site's founders, it gets millions of unique visitors a month, more than 100,000 of whom have contributed pages.

So, big brands: You're the man now, dog, and the woman. You need to engage in some serious research and school yourself on what is happening online that doesn't come from the usual suspects -- you and your corporate buds.

Time to try candor, humor, real dialogue. And to mega-niche or be niched.
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