If You’re Going to Play in the Social Media Sandbox, Please Keep It Real

Last weekend my beloved was looking through the Redbox selection and noticed that the number of lame knockoff movies in their kiosks appears to be on the rise. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, Redbox has been stocking its kiosks with a growing number of low-budget, direct-to-DVD titles that have strikingly similar titles and cover art to major Hollywood films.

The L.A. Times wrote a great article about it. The Hollywood Reporter wrote about a lawsuit filed by Universal against the producers of one of these knockoffs.

It’s gotten so bad that before I swipe my credit card, I study the title and cover art of my selection like I’m doing a final pre-flight proof on a very expensive print job for a client.

When Elizabeth got home, she sent Redbox a tweet calling them out for their shenanigans.

She got some pretty lame and obviously canned answers.

Now in fairness to the Redbox social media team, what are they supposed to say? Tell the truth? I doubt the CEO would be pleased to see the company’s official Twitter page go on the record and say “yeah, those knockoffs are totally lame and only there to confuse people who are in a hurry so we can make a few extra bucks.”

The only viable responses are either no response, or the canned lame response they gave us. I get it…but that’s kind of the point.

If you’re going to play in the social media sandbox, be prepared to keep it real. Social media only works when you’re honest and human. Don’t set up a social media channel if your plan is to give lame non-answers to questions that make it sound like you’re running for elected office. All that does is aggravate the consumer. If Elizabeth’s tweet had been ignored, we wouldn’t have thought about it again. The fact that somebody read it, and then responded with talking points that insult our intelligence only makes it worse.

I’m sure somebody in their finance department has done the math and figured out that the negative publicity and pushback they get for this quasi-deceptive tactic is smaller than the potential revenue they can make. As a private company, they have every right to make that decision. But if that’s your business model, you might want to think twice about trying to mask that choice with a flimsy veneer of consumer friendliness that can’t stand up to even the mildest of negative queries from customers.

Contrary to what some self-professed gurus might tell you, social media isn’t for every company. It only works when you are willing to have a real relationship with customers. Real relationships have ups and downs…and they only survive if you embrace it all, have honest communication, and are truly committed to always doing what is right.