AT&T Facebook Case Study: The Dangers of Open Discussion

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In October 2009, Verizon attacked AT&T with their controversial “there’s a map for that” campaign. Claiming they had 5 times more 3G coverage they hit AT&T where it hurt the most: their reputation …

In October 2009, Verizon attacked AT&T with their controversial “there’s a map for that” campaign. Claiming they had 5 times more 3G coverage they hit AT&T where it hurt the most: their reputation for dropped calls, poor coverage, and slow speeds.

AT&T, after losing a restraining order to stop the ads, launched a response attack of their own in November. With Luke Wilson as their spokesperson they advertised 97% coverage of all Americans and “the best coverage worldwide”.
Acknowledging that corporate campaigns are less credible than word-of-mouth and referrals, AT&T turned to the public. They drove people to their Facebook Page where they held an open forum in their discussion board.

The result? As of December 15th there were 81 discussions with 935 posts. I took one sample thread started by AT&T entitled “Southwest Region Network”. Unfortunately for AT&T, 89% of the public posts were negative. “You’re basically maintaining a fan page for Verizon”, wrote one visitor.

The following slides show the first 12 hours of activity with each post rated as positive or negative and key quotes highlighted.

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  • 1. AT&T Facebook Case Study the dangers of open discussion december 15, 2009 andrew cherwenka, vp biz dev trapeze
  • 2. In October 2009, Verizon attacked AT&T with their controversial “ there’s a map for that ” campaign. Claiming they had 5 times more 3G coverage they hit AT&T where it hurt the most: their reputation for dropped calls, poor coverage, and slow speeds. AT&T, after losing a restraining order to stop the ads, launched a response attack of their own in November. With Luke Wilson as their spokesperson they advertised 97% coverage of all Americans and “ the best coverage worldwide ”. Acknowledging that corporate campaigns are less credible than word-of-mouth and referrals, AT&T turned to the public. They drove people to their Facebook Page where they held an open forum in their discussion board. The result? As of December 15 th there were 81 discussions with 935 posts. I took one sample thread started by AT&T entitled “Southwest Region Network”. Unfortunately for AT&T, 89% of the public posts were negative. “ You’re basically maintaining a fan page for Verizon ”, wrote one visitor. The following slides show the first 12 hours of activity with each post rated as positive or negative and key quotes highlighted. overview
  • 3. posts 1-12
  • 4. posts 13-23
  • 5. posts 24-30
  • 6. posts 31-37
  • 7. posts 38-53
  • 8. posts 54-67
  • 9. posts 67-70
  • 10. summary
    • Summary
    • Of the 79 posts in the first 12 hours, 55 were submitted by the public
    • 89% of these were negative; many complimented Verizon
    • Only 1 post was positive; 2 posts applauded AT&T’s customer service but went on to complain about coverage
    • Key quotes
    • “ You’re basically maintaining a fan page for Verizon.”
    • “ Verizon ads are true, Verizon does have better 3G coverage.”
    • “ You aren’t delivering any useful information.”
    • “ AT&T coverage is just awful.”
    • “ If Verizon had the iPhone, everyone I know would switch.”
    • Takeaway
    • Advertising questionable claims might have been effective in the 1-way push world of tv and print, but in the 2-way participative web it’s a dangerous game
    • Negative posts add credibility to an open thread but overwhelmingly negative threads are damaging
    • Advertisers should think twice before opening up dialogue in highly visible forums on controversial topics. When they have little or nothing to add, they should simply not do it.
  • 11. andrew cherwenka | vp biz dev 41 e. 11 th st | new york, NY | 10003 office 212.699.3786 | cell 917.608.5898   250 the esplanade | toronto, canada | m5a 1j2 office 416.601.1999 [email_address]