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5 Marketing Blunders That Twitter Could Have Stopped

10 Crowdsourcing Success Stories
Slideshow: 10 Crowdsourcing Success Stories

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If there were any remaining questions about the influence of social media, the debt ceiling deal should put them to rest. Why? The president of the United States encouraged people to light a fire under representatives through Twitter, complete with hashtag (#compromise). According to White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, all of those Tweets and emails (including those fired off against the president) influenced the agreement, which set for a Monday vote in the House and Senate.

Social media in the enterprise has the same kind of potential for influence, putting pretty much everything up for discussion and providing customers, partners, and competitors with a loud (and sharable) voice. As companies more widely deploy social networking, they, too, will have to figure out how to "listen" and respond to public comments on products, services, and the companies themselves. They'll also need to learn to harness all that opinion for the positive, using it to upgrade and develop products, solve or even head off help desk issues, and so on. The bottom line is that smart companies will leverage social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to work for them, just as the White House has.

Indeed, had it been around years ago, social media technology as we know it could have saved many companies from many headaches. Imagine if you will:

1. New Coke

In 1985, Coca-Cola decided that its storied and immensely popular soft drink needed to change. The company rolled out its new recipe with much fanfare, but the public responded with a figurative hand over its glass. Not only was New Coke soundly rejected, but also, consumers began hoarding "old" Coke. It wasn't long before Coca-Cola brought back the old recipe, saving face by calling it "Coke Classic." At the time, company president Donald R. Keough said, "We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola." Imagine if the company had decided to change its recipe not in 1985 but in 2011. And imagine if it had posted these simple sentences on Facebook and Twitter: "Thinking about changing the recipe for Coke. What do you think?"

2. Microsoft Bob

Say the name "Bob" to anyone who has been in the tech industry for a while, and you'll likely hear snickers. That's because Bob--as in Microsoft Bob--is widely considered one of the biggest tech product bombs ever. Bob, a user interface for Win 95, was designed to help novice users navigate through Windows. With the cutesy house motif (click on a calendar to get to the calendar app!) and doggie guide, Bob was perhaps a little too simplistic, and it became the butt of many a joke. You can check out Bob in retrospect on YouTube, but what if Microsoft was developing Bob now, and provided invite-only access to a Web-based beta (a la Google)? The feedback Microsoft received would have likely made it switch gears, change the target audience--or kill Bob altogether.

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