3 Lessons Brands Can Learn From ObamaCare's Social Failure

By Sam Sudakoff In 2008, President Obama was heralded for his ingenious strategy for integrating social media into his presidential campaign. Now, five years later, social media has become a major tool for instructing and informing the public about the Affordable Care Act (or "ObamaCare"). As social media increasingly becomes a standard in communication, there are several lessons we can take from the recent mishandled roll-out ObamaCare and apply them to other brand launches.

1. The small focus group is out. Mass feedback is in. There were several hundred people troubleshooting and making their way through the ObamaCare website before it launched. That small group in no way prepared anyone for the 2,000,000 visitors on Day 1 and the 100,000,000 daily Twitter users. The copious amounts of unanswered questions pertaining to both the website glitches and the mandate itself seem to be overwhelming. People questioning the major issue, “How could the U.S. Government launch such an impactful program with so many flaws and unknowns?” With the underlying question really being, “How will this affect me and my family?” Given the opportunity for millions to voice questions, concerns, point out errors, brands must really plan for the unexpected. With the volume of potential feedback in this day and age, brands need to set a plan prior to product launch that will enable them to make changes and decisions quickly.

2. Ten years ago, if you had a customer service complaint or praise, you likely called or wrote a letter. No matter how fantastic or horrible your customer experience was, it likely didn’t spread too far. Now, those same one-on-one communications are hosted in an extremely public place where the entire conversation can be seen and followed. As communities grow, those personal connections will become increasingly important. The biggest challenge facing brands now will be reliability. They must figure out a communication solution that addresses everyone individually while still promoting one overarching brand message. This is what will capture and maintain a loyal fan base.

3. Social communities are undoubtedly, if nothing else, extremely demanding. More than anything, they want acknowledgement of an issue and a plan to solve it, if not an immediate solution. The longer a company takes to make a statement, the angrier the tweets, comments, and hashtags will become. This forces brands to move their hand and come out with transparent messages. As this shift continues and communities become more dominant, this desire for transparency will become a necessity versus a “nice to have." We have seen this in the past several weeks from the president and will continue to watch the rapidly growing trend toward corporate honesty.

There is no way to plan, filter, or funnel what may be said about you, your brand, or your passion.  What matters now is how you take that information and apply it towards making your product, brand, idea better. The information you have ready to present, the transparency and adaptability you display are what will determine your success.

What's the most valuable insight you've gained from your community?

sam