I’ve been giving some thought to why Microsoft’s attempt to reach out to bloggers, by sending them free Vista-loaded laptops, went horribly wrong.
I know that hindsight is 20/20, but as a business blogging consultant, here’s the five mistakes that I believe led to such a negative response from the blogosphere.
- Microsoft (and Edelman) was not clear in its message to bloggers. They sent out these fully-loaded, top of the line laptops to bloggers without being clear what exactly they expected from them. Did they want bloggers to review Vista? Were they expecting bloggers to disclose the gift? Would there be a follow-up from MSFT to learn flaws about Vista on laptops? The message was clearly too ambiguous as some bloggers shared news of the “gift” with their readers, while others didn’t.
- The “gift” was far too extravagant. If you want to send someone a copy of Vista to test, ask them if they already have a computer to test it on! Sending bloggers a $2,000+ laptop smacks of bribery. What’s next, Goodyear sending auto bloggers their latest tires fitted to a brand new Porsche?
- They targeted the elite and the masses revolted. When you send out an expensive gift to a small selection of bloggers, those left out are the ones who tend to hold you the most accountable. The recipients of the expensive laptops were not the ones criticizing Microsoft, it was the bloggers who were left out that turned this initiative sour. Why? One reason may be because they didn’t get a $2k laptop, so felt it their duty to hold the recipients to a high standard. The blogosphere sees all and knows all. They are quick to judge and if something smells like a bribe, they’ll let you know.
- Microsoft (Edelman) panicked in their follow-up. Once the blogosphere passed judgement, Microsoft tried to back-track on the gift. It was now no longer something that the recipient could keep. They had to either give it away or send it back. There’s so many things wrong with this response:
- It suggests you did send the gift as a bribe and are now trying to back-track because you were caught.
- It alienates the bloggers you sent the gift to in the first place. You’ve made them look like schmucks.
- The same blogosphere that questioned the gift, now smells blood. MSFT’s weakness, and failure to explain the outreach, adds fuel to the questions being raised.
So, there’s my thoughts on where Microsoft and Edelman went wrong. Would I have done things differently? As I said, hindsight is easy, but I’d like to think I would have avoided most of the problems I’ve outlined above.
Now over to you. What other errors did MSFT make along the way. Maybe if we all share our thoughts, they (and other companies) can learn from this fiasco.