Deborah Weinstein, in her brilliant post entitled, Bald Barbie: How Mattel Lost Out on a Huge Opportunity and Allowed a Competitor to Move Into the Dream House, documents a dark side to social media. If you ignore “the force” of Social Media you’ve effectively joined the dark side.

The old business paradigm of hierarchical command does not take well to social media. Like the Evil Empire, there is an imperative to control. Control information, control decisions, and control perceptions. On the surface, social media seems to present more problems than a tribe of armed Wookiees.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Darth Barbie and Storm TrooperPerhaps Mattel (and others) just do not believe that social media adds business value?  Mattel’s competitor, MGA, maker of Bratz and Moxie Girlz, certainly have used it to their business advantage. Within a month of Barbie, brand fans requesting a “Bald Barbie,” MGA announced a line of charitable products directly competing with Mattel’s Barbie. Mattel’s awkward response, as documented by Deborah, reminded me of Darth Vader’s cocktail party skills (exactly). It took Mattel over four months to backhandedly acknowledge that their fan base even wanted the product. The dark side to social media is that you cannot ignore the power of the force. Businesses need to be listening to their communities online and effectively engaging them. There is real revenue at stake in these conversations. In a recent study of over 56 billion impressions, Randy Smith, CEO of ClearSaleing documented that when social media was present in a purchase path it generated 84% more revenue than organic search alone.

“This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”

So what is a business to do?  Fortunately, social media can and should be approached systematically. Avoid rescues; create a plan. Let’s show you how with our overall process map excerpted from the McGraw Hill publication: Social Marketology.

Social Marketology: Overall Process Flow Map

The beauty of this process flow map developed by Ric Dragon is that you can start anywhere you find yourself. Mattel, perhaps, can start with this recent gaffe and move backwards or forwards to understand how to avoid repeating it in the near future. There are several important elements to consider. First, focusing on your desired outcomes in measurable ways is critical for a business process. What may not be evident (read the book!) is how to identify communities and influencers. Even if Mattel was deaf to the social media conversation, some of the 450 press articles generated within two weeks had to have come to their attention. Remember, ignoring the “force” of social media is joining the dark side. Start listening, identify the online communities relevant to your business. Join and engage those communities. Execute, measure and continually renew your plans based on your desired outcomes. Sure, it’s not that simple, which is why we wrote a book about how to do it. Jump in and give it a do. After all, in the words of Yoda “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.”

Are you part of the social media dark side? Have your own favorite story of a brand gaffe? Jump in to the comments and leave your thoughts!