I was so excited yesterday when I received an email from Michael Crosson (photo left), group leader of one of LinkedIn’s top social media groups, Social Media Marketing, which boasts almost 80,000 members.
Coming from the group’s leader, the offer for a free ebook, “42 Rules of Social Media” by communications professional Jennifer Jacobson, seemed too good to pass up.
So I clicked on the link, highlighted with the exclamation at the end of Michael’s post, “Get your FREE copy here.”
I was taken to the publishers page. But a header on the page reads: “Receive Your Complimentary eBook Excerpt NOW!”
Oops! The offer was for an excerpt only, not the entire book. Of course, an excerpt can be a few sentences from a few chapters but still might have been worth it. So I clicked through to the form. Then I saw that the form to get just the excerpt required about 20 pieces of information including job and company information as well as detailed contact information.
I balked. And so did many others who saw the offer.
The discussion thread exploded. Within less than a day dozens of comments had been posted. Most lambasted the offer, feeling misled about a free ebook when the offer was only for an excerpt.
The first comment started the discussion “Sounds interesting, but just to be clear – This is an excerpt from the book, not a free ebook as stated.” by Brendan Shanahan. But things spiralled down from there.
As the incident unfolded, comments ranged from disappointment to vitriol:
- “The ebook is not free as you claim. … since you were not sincere in your promotion (and this is after all Social Media where authenicity is everything) I think I’ll pass. — John Doble
- “Umm, you’re trying to mislead a group of savvy, smart-mouthed people” — Marilyn Casey
- “A core pillar of social media is trust. … I trusted the link to the free ebook found that the link was bogus… For a social media veteran – this is a huge fail.” — Walter Pike
- “Alas, I was duped. I would not have provided my info had I known it was for an excerpt.” — Kris Tazelaar
- “Complete scam! and then reiterated in message above that it was a free book and not an excerpt – very bad practice.” — The Think Tank London
- “An excerpt instead of the full book and involving a questionnaire that was only missing my shoe size – a reason good enough for me to leave this group. Foul play, guys, shame on you.” — Lukasz Dabrowski
- “LinkedIn.com would do well to ban and bar Michael Crosson, or whomever created his/her profile on LinkedIn …from the obvious and justified complaints here, you’ve hurt & compromised a lot of people, information and privacy-wise…” — Brian Uytiepo
Ouch! So Michael Crosson, self-proclaimed “Social Media and Interactive Advertising Industry Veteran” slipped up big time.
Well we all make mistakes! But how would the “industry veteran” respond?
Michael was soon on the thread with his mea culpa. He admitted the mistake in presenting the offer as a free ebook rather than the excerpt. Apparently, he’d been misled himself by the promoter from whom he’d received the information. He also forwarded the discussion comments to the promoter. And, very importantly, he also said that he would “personally check out these offers next time before posting.”
The ebook’s author also responded to distance herself from the incident. “I did not approve of the above referenced co-marked ‘seemingly spam-ish’ offer,” she wrote.
Lesson learned. What’s instructive here is to realize that yes, mistakes happen in social media. But their impact will depend on the response — its timeliness, taking responsibility and appropriate measures as needed. Michael Crosson demonstrated all of these with aplomb.
Some group members might agree. Marilyn Casey wrote “this was probably a valuable exercise for everyone involved.” and Tim Scapillato thinks that “This entire episode was a very graphic illustration of the power and speed of social media. You handled it well, Mike.”
Visit the discussion and see how social media pros respond when one of their own gets it wrong. Here’s the link to the discussion on LinkedIn.