Written by Jimmy Mallet.
HP recently announced that they will stop developping WebOS, the operating system of its “HP Touchpad”. With a no-longer supported OS (so no future for the product), a large sell-off of the Touchpad was initiated, with prices down from 499 euros to 99 euros for the 16 gigas.
All e-sellers have run out of their stocks in a few minutes the next day. All but one, RueduCommerce.com, who decided to wait 10 days to sell a stock of 1000 tablets. The site has created a huge buzz. It was indeed an opportunity for them to talk about their site, to increase the number of visits during 10 days before the sale and above all, help increase sales of other products during the “big day” knowing that, according to estimates, about 25,000 buyers would visit their site to try to buy one of the 1000 tablets.
The information quickly circulated over the Internet, supported by forums, specialized websites and social networks. People were prepared, the adrenaline has been rising, customers have virtually camped out all night in front of their pc as for the launch of a new iphone.
And on September 7 at 7 am, more than 80,000 people tried to buy a touchpad. Even if a special infrastructure was in place, the site quickly saturated, the links were not accessible to all people at the same time, and payment was a lottery. For people who could not buy a Touchpad, RueDuCommerce offered a voucher of 10 euros to spend on their site.
It was at this point that the buzz started to slip. 79,000 disappointed people began to write on facebook, feeling fooled by technical problems and frustrated as children who have not had their Christmas toy. Some employees of RueDuCommerce (quickly identified) tried to offset the negative messages, some messages were censored (which gives even more frustration). RueDuCommerce even sent an email to all people who managed to buy one of the 1000 Touchpad asking them to post a “nice” word on their Facebook page …. This was also noticed…
Creating a marketing Buzz is a good thing to talk about your company (at a lower cost) if it is successful, but the buzz also includes some risks of losing more, of generating a bad message in return, a loss of customers …. You can’t control a social network, but depending on the scenario, you can master it. You must be ready, set objectives, set different scenarios and be prepared to act depending on the evolution of the buzz.
Be aware of those risks before you start. The flashback of a buzz poorly controlled can hurt. The web has a strong memory. A negative buzz will certainly fall after some time but will not completely disappear. Successful buzz are rare but impact can be great (though generally, these are mostly involuntary buzz!)