Posts Tagged 'reach'

The $5-billion boo boo

Many companies I consult with are still unsure about influence of  “social media” and the online world. Mostly they’re unsure about the degree of impact on them, their people, products/services, brand and ultimately, their reputation.

In short, I tell them the online world, and the rise of social media, is a phenomenon they ignore at their own peril. And that the impact is real and tangible. Glaring examples pop up frequently. The latest involves one incident with two “boo boos:” the first refers to a heart attack, the second, more importantly, refers to the fact it was misinformation.

Apple Inc.’s share price plunged, shaving $5 billion its market capitalization in three hours, in early October when someone anonymously posted a story on CNN’s iReport citizen journalism website. The post said a “reliable source” (does anyone quote unreliable sources?!) saw Apple CEO Steve Jobs admitted to a hospital with a heart attack. With Apple’s success largely dependent upon Jobs (and with his appearance and health the subject of speculation in 2008), skittish investors responded by bolting from Apple stock. It took a few hours before the notoriously closed-mouthed Apple (and Jobs) confirmed that the post was not true, but by that time, word spread quickly online. The SEC has since identified an 18-year-old as the poster, and are investigating to determine if it was a prank or if he profited from the post.

The veracity of the story is less relevant than what it demonstrated: the speed and reach of the online world can have dire consequences to your business or organization. Here’s why:

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Immediacy. The Internet operates real-time. You don’t have to wait for the newspaper to be published or for the reguarlly scheduled 6 p.m. TV broadcast to get your information. The posting of information is instantaneous and 24/7, as connections to the Internet become more ubiquitous and simpler (from PCs, wireless devices, iPhones, smart phones, etc.). At the same time, accessing the information (blogs, discussion forums, etc.), photos and videos is just as immediate and can quickly gain momentum in seconds and minutes, not hours and days.

Reach. Unlike a local newspaper, the online world is not restricted by physical geography and distribution. Information in a newspaper will reach only as far as the paper carrier can throw it; a movie or video only to those in the theatre. In the online world, anyone connected to the Internet globally can access that information. People you didn’t expect, or even want, to know about certain information are only a mouse-click away. Consider that a local newspaper column is read by thousands, but an influential blog or video-sharing site, with it’s “social” component, can be viewed by tens of millions. Your information is not just in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.