Electronics retailer Bing Lee has been slammed by social media users and experts for promoting a Facebook campaign through which it pledged to donate $1 to the Queensland flood appeal for every leery user who became a member of the company’s fan page.

The company has continued to defend its actions, despite the consumer backlash, saying that it was using the campaign to simply channel the sentiment of its customers. Bing Lee was contacted for comment this morning but no spokesperson was available before publication.

Thomas Tudehope, director of strategy and engagement for reputation management firm SR7, says the campaign is an example of what businesses should avoid when creating social media campaigns — especially around devastating incidents.

“The Bing Lee Facebook campaign is yet another example of on organisation applying old-world traditional campaigns rule without any sensitivity to social media,” he says.

“While social media and in particular Facebook is a great connector, especially in times of need, conventional sensitivities should and need to apply”.

Bing Lee made a post saying that, “We are donating $1 for every fan on our Facebook page to the QLD flood appeal”.

But the strategy has been attacked on Twitter, with users adopting the hashtag “#charityfail” and slamming the marketing tactic as opportunistic.

But the company has defended its move, posting another update on its Facebook page saying it wanted to “clarify the reasoning behind our decision”.

“The $1 donated from Bing Lee is not from us, but from your effort to support the cause … If in the process we have also inspired other people and businesses to take action, which it looks like we have, then this has been a good outcome.

“Bing Lee will donate the full $10,000 no matter how many fans we have. Having said that we do hope that you continue to take action and support the cause regardless.”

But Brandology managing director Michel Hogan says Bing Lee would have done much better to have simply donated the money in the first place, and then post about it on the Facebook page, “which would have netted them more Facebook fans anyway”.

“This appears manipulative, and customers don’t like being manipulated. In the long-term, this probably won’t do a lot of damage, but in the short term, it may cause some customers to think twice about shopping with them.”

Hogan also points out that while the company won’t necessarily suffer long-term damage, it serves as a lesson to other businesses that using social media to gain members isn’t necessarily appropriate in every event.

“If you want to donate money, then donate money. You can even say that on the Facebook page, or you could not do that, because it will just get out anyway … this is a pretty opportunistic move.”

Tudehope adds that campaign is in “poor taste” and “will definitely suffer brand damage”.

“Social media strategies are at their most effective when in-depth consideration is not only given to the target audience but also the broader environment in which the campaign is to be executed”.

Peter Fray

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