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25th June 2013 |  Written by Hassan Ali

Microsoft’s Xbox One U-turn and the Power of Social Media Feedback

As someone who uses social media on a daily basis – on behalf of clients as well as for personal use, it can be annoying hearing uninformed comments like “social media doesn’t add any real value to companies” or “social isn’t an effective form of digital marketing”. So to prove that social DOES indeed influence marketing decisions and brand perception, I thought it’d be a good idea to present some recent high profile examples.

Xbox One

Microsoft’s recent Xbox One blunder is a good place to start. When the console was revealed for the first time in May, the company said it would impose a number of restrictions, namely – not being to share or re-sell games as you currently can, and having to connect to the internet once every 24 hours in order to play your games.

Gamers around the world weren’t happy with this, and boy did they let Microsoft know about it. Hordes of angry fans flooded Twitter and Facebook to vent their annoyance, with some even showing support for Sony’s rival PS4 console on Xbox’s own Facebook page:

Xbox One on Facebook

With a release date as soon as November 2013, any changes to the product at this point would be awkward and highly unlikely. But with thousands mocking the company on its own social pages and stating their plans to adopt Sony’s PlayStation 4 instead (see GameSpot’s Twitter poll below), Microsoft saw the dollars disappearing before the console had even launched. They had no choice but to bow to pressure and announce a spectacular policy U-turn.

xbox-one-vs-ps4

If social media wasn’t around, would Microsoft have known the extent of their marketing fail? I sincerely doubt it. Social feedback allowed them to react quickly and potentially rescue an absolute shedload of lost sales. In fact, MCV reports that Xbox One overtook PS4 on Amazon’s best seller charts immediately after Microsoft announced its change in policy.

Here are a couple more instances of brands reversing big decisions thanks to social media feedback:

Instagram
One of the most high profile social U-turns in recent memory. In late 2012, Instagram changed its terms of service allowing the company to use its users’ photos for advertising purposes. There was no way to opt out of this, apart from closing your account. This sparked a huge uproar, particularly on Twitter where celebrities including Pink (see below) threatened to leave the network. Faced with the threat of a big chunk of its customers quitting the service, Instagram quickly reverted back to its old terms of service.

Pink on Instagram

Nutella
Back in 2007, blogger and Nutella super fan Sara Rosso created World Nutella Day to celebrate her love of the cult favourite chocolate spread. Over the years, scores of other enthusiastic fans joined in on the fun and its Facebook page has so far amassed a whopping 40,000 fans. In 2013 however, Nutella’s parent company strangely decided they didn’t want this fan-led promotion to continue and sent Sara a cease and desist letter, prompting annoyed fans to complain on Facebook and Twitter. Overwhelmed by the social media backlash, the brand had no option but to reverse their bizarre decision, allowing World Nutella Day to live on.

Nutella on Facebook

Crowdsourcing

So far I’ve alluded to companies that have made vital decisions due to largely negative online feedback. But what about social media’s capacity to influence with positive responses? This is when crowdsourcing comes in. Simply put, crowdsourcing is when brands use consumer input to shape product development, and is one of the most inventive tools at a digital marketer’s disposal. Here are two examples of social media crowdsourcing campaigns done right:

Citroen
In 2012, car manufacturer Citroen decided its C1 Connexion car was to be designed entirely by its Facebook community. After making a number of selections including the number of doors, custom badges and equipment to be included, fans could submit their ideas which then counted as a vote. The design combinations with the most votes were then realised by the manufacturer and the C1 Connexion was born. Citroen had succeeded in creating the UK’s first social media crowdsourced car, and had received an impressive 24,000 designs.

Citroen C1 Connexion

Ben & Jerry’s
The wildly popular ice cream maker’s “Do The World A Flavour” campaign asked its online fans to come up with their own flavour ideas. Some 100,000 worldwide votes later, the winning combo was chosen, and spawned the Fairly Nuts flavour. Of course, there’s no point going through all this effort if the product was going to flop. Ben & Jerry’s had no such worries though, as the new flavour smashed all its marketing targets, thanks in part to promotion on social media. Have you ever tried the Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey flavours? Those were devised by fans too.

Ben and Jerrys

Hopefully these examples have persuaded those on the fence about social media that it’s indeed a powerful, influential tool for shaping business and marketing strategies based on online feedback. If you’d like to know more about social media and how Return on Digital can use it to boost your business, feel free to call us on 0845 869 0342 or email us at results@returnondigital.com.

Your Comments

  1. Hi Hassan, great post. Some really cool examples.

    Social media is amazing. The power of the people can be so overwhelming.

    Cheers

    Halit

  2. Excellent post Hassan, with some really cool examples! I love a good social media debate maker, the Nutella story especially highlighting an old world approach to branding.

    If users ‘hijack’ a brand and promote it, love it and tell the whole world how great it is, why on earth would you want to silence them?!Looks like a case of stuffed suits trying to look like they know what they’re doing.

    I’d not heard the Citroen story before, but it’s cool. I’d like to see that happen much more often, for much more stuff. Like the Scottish Parliament building – imagine if the social public had their say before it was made? That building upset (to put it mildly) quite a lot of people.

    I know at present social media doesn’t represent the full spectrum of society, but maybe one day it will – it could be the platform by which everything is debated and decided on – and brands, companies and organisations would do well to recognise the power.

  3. You’ve collected together some fantastic examples here.It’s really great to see social having such an impact.
    It’s certainly amazing to see how powerful the voice of the public has become online.
    It’s clear that social profiles hold value, but it’s gaging exactly how much value these profiles have to brands that seems to be the problem for most brands.
    Do you measure success in likes and shares, or are these merely vanity metrics, a thinly-veiled front for conversions? Would love to know your thoughts on this.

    That being said, It’s fantastic to see social media having a direct impact on brand decision making, and the if the recent boom in popularity of crowdsourcing wasn’t enough to show how social sources can have a positive impact, then Microsoft’s Xbox 180 definitely is.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys, glad you all enjoyed the article.

    Harry, in terms of measuring success, I guess that depends on the individual brand, and what they want to get out of social media. Some will want hard conversions while some aim to increase their brand awareness. I do think, moving forward, more companies will acknowledge social media as an integral marketing channel, and so will rely on it more for conversions and sales.

    One thing’s for sure, it looks like social media’s influence on brand decision-making will only get stronger!

  5. Great article Hassan, really insightful. Amazing to see how social media has allowed consumers to have a direct say into how products are designed. The bridge between consumers and companies has truly been constructed through social media.

    Keep the articles coming Hassan ….

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