Today it appears we goofed on the social internet.
In the last month or so, Cozi has embraced social media like Facebook and Twitter in a big way. While many executives fear these tools because of their spontaneity and openness, I have come to believe that the payoff in engagement with the customer is well worth any perceived risks. The fact is that people are talking on the internet anyway, we can either ignore the conversations, or join them.
I still believe this.
So, what happened?
Several weeks ago our Washington State senator's office approached me with a request: "Please host a meeting for Senator Murray with small business CEOs/owners to discuss the health care debate."
Although I am not personally involved in local or federal politics, I thought, "Cool! I'd love to meet the senator, there will be press here, and maybe I can talk to her about how Cozi can help military families stay in closer touch. Plus, I am passionate about providing great health-care to my employees and health-care costs are growing too quickly at Cozi."
This morning we had the meeting.
We - the business owners -- had a productive discussion with her around health care. There were nine of us in the room representing all sides of the political spectrum. Given the debate going on across the country, I was surprised that everyone in the room was supportive of what Senator Murray called a "public option" even though she made it clear to us all that in truth, they have not yet defined what that will look like or who will pay for it. All she was ready to share was that government would be involved, it would extend care to the uninsured, and it would help lower the cost of health-care to businesses like us. Everyone was supportive; based on that description, how could they not be?
When we came out of the meeting, Carol, who is driving a great deal of our social marketing work, asked me, "What was the highlight? I'll post it to Facebook."
Not thinking more than a second about it, I replied, "There was unanimous support in the room for a public option." I had been surprised by it, so it seemed the most interesting nugget to share. It was insight into an interesting meeting we had a Cozi about a topic that affects us all.
I was wrong. While some fans responded positively, many of the 35+ comments we got on Facebook were negative. Since we treat every one of our customers like gold, and we work so hard to satisfy them, losing their trust hurts like hell.
We were not taking a political stand as a company for or against health-care reform. But fans perceived that we were, and worse yet, some argued that the debate that ensued had no place on our Facebook Fan Page.
The problem is that it's hard to know what exactly to take away from this. Should we avoid anything that might be perceived as politically charged? Should we micromanage every post we make on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network? Right now, I still think we need to remain genuine and transparent; anything else would break the spirit of the social internet. Hopefully the successes will be big and the failures will be small.
I don't like failing. I always think back to when I was nine, skiing with my father at Stowe, VT (on the Nose Dive). We met-up half way down the run and I said to him, "Dad, I can't believe I made it this far down without falling once." To which my wise father replied, "If you didn't fall, it means you probably didn't learn anything."