September 28, 2012 / by DannyS

Montana’s Connectivity Crisis

I advise clients on proper communications and marketing via social media. I am also contracted out via Classic Ink (my employer) as a community manager – however, it’s all too often that I get people who ask me to meet with them to either…

A. Explain the importance of understanding digital connectivity for consumers, businesses and the business owners or
B. Asses their current situation where I will focus on their specific brands and business and then deliver them a proposal of all my changes and costs.

Whichever reason they meet with me, 90% of the time it becomes patronizing and they don’t really want to listen to me. They come back with their arguments of why nobody wants to read their blogs, watch their videos or interact with their brand. Unfortunately for them, it’s more of the fact that they don’t want to address change and want to stick with what works. However, what they believe works, isn’t necessarily working.

City of Bozeman Commits A Major Fail

In 2009, I moved to Bozeman, and right after moving here (literally, the following week) the social media blogs went into cardiac arrest over how the City of Bozeman was requiring ALL job applicants to deliver their Facebook login and password (as well as other social platforms) so that they could validate the applicants true colors. Thankfully, the city backed down:

“Effective at 12:00 p.m. today, Friday June 19, 2009, the City of Bozeman permanently ceased the practice of requesting candidates selected for City positions under a provisional job offer to provide user names and passwords for the candidate’s internet sites. In addition, until further notice, the City will suspend its practice of reviewing candidate’s password protected internet information until the City conducts a more comprehensive evaluation of the practice.” – City of Bozeman

I point this out because this idea that clients present to me, that we’re in Montana so digital media doesn’t really matter is a terrible position to take. Bozeman is taking shape as a technology hub, which suggests that their networks are going to be connected via some form of social media. Missoula has a startup that is in the Y Combinator this year. Facebook has over 800Million users (surely many come from Montana).

I acknowledge these points of reference to identify this one simple fact: Montana IS connected. However, people, primarily business owners, up here continue to misunderstand why digital is so important…

Wilcoxson’s Doesn’t Like The 21st Century

Livingston, Montana is the home to Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream. Only 20 minutes away from me and it’s an hour north of the Yellowstone National Park. It’s known for “The Dude” living here along with many other celebrities – they enjoy the scenery. The valley between Livingston and the park is called Paradise Valley, it really is beautiful. Now that I have set the backdrop for this little story, let me tell you about Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream.

Their ice cream is all crafted here in Montana – has been for a century. If you have never tried it, check out their Moose Tracks, it’s incredible. However, given the president’s response to a Muslim customer’s question, I doubt most of you will ever send a dollar his direction.

This is what I mean – Montanan business owners are failing to understand the dynamic of today’s connectivity. This is the shift in the culture, and if you aren’t going to play ball, at least hire someone that can help you play ball. Further examples of business leader mindsets can be found in the local media message boards. Consumers will shift and owners will learn – but they had better learn fast.

Wilcoxson’s President wasn’t fast enough to deal with the pressure – he folded the Wilcoxson’s Facebook page – I guess he didn’t see the BRANDFog 2012 CEO Survey that says more than 82% of (consumers) are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t matter if he steps off Facebook, Twitter or anything really. I could create a multitude of profiles in about 30 seconds, own it and take it away from him. Like many leaders, he fails to understand that regardless of him properly managing this crisis, the conversations will continue without his dialogue – that can’t be good for business.


The President contends that is was a simple mistake that was made due to fast pace and not paying full attention. He tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

I thought he was making this comment from Pakistan,” Schaeffer said. “It wasn’t a racist comment… It was just an honest mistake.”
From there, the comment took on a life of its own, he said. People posted such nasty things on the Wilcoxson’s page that he deleted it and said, “It’s no longer going to be in existence.”
“I apologize if he took it wrong, that’s not what I meant by it. I guess I didn’t read the whole thing,” Schaeffer said. But the reaction to the answer “was bad. There were cuss words. It was just bad, so I just took (the Facebook page) down.”

Another lesson for leaders, social media is a communications tool. It’s as important as anything else. You nurture sales leads with this stuff – it’s far from a joke. Whether they are Muslim, Catholic, male, female, black or asian, these are your customers who support you. This person was asking a simple question – you’ll have to excuse them for not picking up a phone and calling, you know, because so many consumers are just aching to call a customer service line and get hung on a phone tree for 15 minutes.

My recommendation to Wilcoxson’s is to hire a professional, clearly their President is incompetent. After that, present company wide training – because if the leader knows nothing about digital media, nobody does in that place. It’s evident that it’s not important enough. PS I would have linked to their site, but there isn’t one. My point exactly.

Danny Schotthoefer is the digital strategist/community manager at an advertising agency in Bozeman, Montana. He is also a TEDx event organizer and an avid Oregon Ducks and Portland Trailblazers fan. You can also find him running via Nike+ and cycling via Strava – he is highly social. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn. Forewarning: He Talks A LOT!

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