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Aug 28

Power of the Internet

Last year, in IT class, we talked alot about the power of the new social networking and the influence it could bear for businesses.  For the last week or so, I have been following a fascinating story on the Internet involving blogging and Twitter and the power of both to influence companies and consumers.  I would like to share it here in order to facilitate discussion as to what it means for the future of marketing and business in general.

Heather Armstrong is probably one of the most read people on the Internet.  Her website, dooce.com, sees enough traffic that she can afford to support herself and her family on it through the ad revenue it generates.  Her Twitter following is over a million people and growing, and she is particularly popular with women and stay at home mothers.  I have seen firsthand that when she recommends a product, it can sell out very quickly, and when she doesn’t like something, she has a platform of millions.

Over the last week or so, Heather started having problems with her Maytag washing machine, which was new and cost $1300. She was getting nowhere with customer service. With two small children, her laundry was becoming a nightmare.  So she Twittered her frustration, and implored her million followers to not buy Maytag washing machines.

From a marketing and business perspective, one person told a million people right in the middle of Maytag’s segment not to buy the product.  Repeatedly.  Both Whirlpool and Home Depot jumped in very quickly to mitigate the damage, but realistically, that damage was done.

Here’s where the issue comes into play.  She is not a celebrity we think of in a normal sense.  If it was Oprah calling customer service, the issue would have been a priority. But she does have some of that same clout.  Now, with the Internet, any otherwise random customer could have a following of hundreds or a million followers, and the marketing department wouldn’t have any warning that something big was happening until it had already blown up.  This is a fascinating case for e-marketing and the like, and it will be awesome to look at how it all plays out.

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