The Myth of Bad Publicity
We’re in a new world of media and publicity. The old rules simply don’t apply. As the music industry learned ten years too late, the Internet has changed everything. Andy Warhol famously said in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. Andy Warhol knew how celebrity, publicity, and art worked better than anyone in the final years of the 20th century. But he had no idea what was coming. He didn’t see the rise of the “Internet-Famous.” Instead of 15 minutes of fame for everyone, a lifetime of Internet fame is guaranteed to anyone with a MySpace profile and 15 friends.
Recently a Twitter power user in Houston who often Tweets reviews of restaurants and bars made a disparaging tweet about a bartender while she was in the restaurant. You can read about the full Twitter drama here. The tweet was returned immediately by the restaurant’s general manager who monitors the Twitter account with a phone call and a request for the tweeter to leave the bar for her boisterous online behavior. The story was picked up by Houston blogs and newspapers as well going out to both the user’s and the restaurant’s followers. The online drama created a surge of web traffic for the bar’s website and the ornery tweeter’s.
Who wins and who loses in this situation? The cliché’, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” seems to hold true in this instance of new media publicity. But does it really?
In the glut of words that is a Twitter feed, the story is hot for a few hours, days if the participants are
truly lucky, and then fades into the ether. The non-stop onslaught of information and the ability to constantly click to something new, better, and more exciting means that ‘online drama’ becomes cacophonous background noise and holds no one’s attention. Bad publicity and good publicity can both become bad publicity– publicity which holds no one’s attention and gets lost in a sea of back and forth tweets.
How many new customers will this Twitter drama actually bring in? How many will it scare away? Will it do either? If there is no way to measure the actual success of an advertising campaign or even a single tweet, what exactly is the purpose? Most online retailers will deal with bad reviews, unfavorable tweets, and negative comments. Negative attention in the long run whether online or in the real world hurts a business because customers stay away. Bad publicity for the sake of more web traffic is simply not worth the effort. Inciting online drama will increase web traffic and publicity, there’s no debate about that, but the return on investment for the time and energy on these online squabbles is simply too amorphous. Not only is winner never quite clear, but no matter what the discussion, it’s soon drowned out by other voices in the Internet din.
Perhaps bad publicity as good publicity made more sense in the past when newspapers held a monopoly on the daily news. Today every business has access to its own newspaper, in a sense, through blogs and online press releases. In this new environment, I’d recommend another old cliché’ when dealing with both online and real life interactions: “The customer is always right.”
(Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Kizette)
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