VW: what a social media fail looks like

Posted by jamess — 4 January 2012 at 10:44pm - Comments

What I love about social media is that you can’t fake it.

For all the hundreds of millions of dollars companies like Volkswagen pump into their advertising machines (for VW it’s a cool £1.5bn every year) they can’t crack social media. And that’s down to one simple reason: they fear honesty. 

For a company like Volkswagen, whose dangerous anti-climate policies are hidden far beneath its cool adverts and smart reputation, truth is something to be feared.

Truth wasn’t a threat when you only communicated with your audience through the one-way media of TV, radio or print. Back then it was easy to craft an image of a shiny green company and pay for that lie to be plastered everywhere.

In the social media world the reality is different. To engage their audiences, companies like Volkswagen want to talk to you, joke with you, and supposedly listen to you. It’s the digital equivalent of trying to be one of your mates.

So when Neil, a volunteer from our Camden group, pointed out Volkswagen’s latest Facebook post, which was chattily asking for advice for 2012, it seemed a good opportunity to chip in.  Because we’re friends, right?

It wasn’t us giving the advice and asking questions. After telling our supporters on Facebook that VW was shopping for tips for 2012, over 800 people quickly hopped on their page and told VW to stop lobbying against climate laws.

The problem for Volkswagen is that when friends start asking awkward questions about your hidden dark side, you’ve only really got a couple of options:

  • Try to justify yourself
  • Confess and weep apologetically

So what does Volkswagen do?

It decides on a third, distinctly anti-social option: to cover its ears and run around shouting “la-la-la-la”. Despite the 800+ comments, there’s not been a single word in response from the car giant.

But let’s be clear: this isn’t a case of an intern asleep at their keyboard. Volkswagen has been busily responding to the handful of other commenters, it’s just ignoring the hundreds of comments about its anti-climate lobbying.

Why? Orders from above. We know that Volkswagen’s head honcho Martin Winterkorn has refused to sit down and talk to us.  So I can only assume a diktat has been passed down from on high: ignore all Greenpeace supporters.

Will it work? I very much doubt it. If the brief history of social media has told us anything, it’s that ignoring people doesn’t make them disappear, it just makes them angry.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like such a smart move when over 90,000 of the 480,000 people calling on Volkswagen to change are VW drivers.

Or at least they were.

Add your comment to VW’s Facebook post. Let’s see how many it takes before we get a reply.

Update: more than 1,000 comments and still no reply.

Dave? Was it not Neil?

@dave indeed. I suffer from dave-neil confusion. corrected.

I step away from social media for just a couple of days and look what I miss. Great work Neil!

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