The growth of social media has been exponential; with Facebook boasting of 600 million users, and Twitter claiming 200 million, there is no doubt that it is a tremendous force with which the business world has had to reckon. And they’re still learning. Much of social media management and optimization has been experimental as pioneers strike out into new virtual territory. Sometimes, it is not clear what the best path is or the right angle for a campaign until it’s too late. Learning from effective use is always important – as is learning from missteps.
“Misstep” may be too kind a word for GoDaddy’s founder Bob Parsons, who recently went viral for all the wrong reasons. He posted a link to his video on hunting “problem elephants” in Zimbabwe. To be fair, these elephants do trample crops and can destroy a season of hard work. Pizza Czar’s Vaughan Lazer doesn’t see it that way; he sees the video, in which Parsons kills what he claims is a problem male (and which experts say is a protected female) as slaughter. He pulled 130 domain names from GoDaddy, which cost the website thousands in revenue.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) pulled its GoDaddy domain names and is urging others to do the same. For his part, though, Parsons says, “I think if you had all the facts and you knew exactly what was going on and the difference it makes in these people’s lives here, you’d feel completely different.” 20,000 businesses begged to differ; this is how many accounts GoDaddy lost.
What might we learn from Parsons? According to global brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin, “The goal is not engagement, the goal is selling. Engagement is how we get there. So if it’s not a direct line, not even dotted line, to a sales transaction, you really need to ask long and hard not just if I can, but should I?”
He also says Parsons should have minimized damage by pulling the video, apologizing, addressing concerns, and moving on. Instead, his tactic of defending the elephant killing is not winning him any allies and is causing substantial damage to his business. Whether or not he should be killing the elephants is one issue; whether he should have posted the video is the one that marketers need to pay attention to.