Don’t bother with the facts – grab your pitch forks we are going after Woolworths!

I have said I before and I will say it again – if you think Social Media is fad that you can ignore – be afraid.

Unless you have been living under a rock in South Africa, you will know that the fan is on and the shit has hit Woolworths.  Hard.

Woolworths sharesStill think that Social Networking doesn’t effect your business ? notice Woolworths share over the past 10 days – all due to the “racist employment policy” that broke on Social Media after a Blogger posted how Woolworths doesn’t hire any white employees and this is clearly a racist employment policy. (I am paraphrasing)

Once this hit the Social Media stream it exploded ! people are Tweeting, commenting, and posting and even Facebook groups have been created calling for the boycotting of Woolworths in protest.

Woolworths boycott

People’s fury has reached a point where Woolworths has had to shut down their Facebook wall :

Woolworths Facebook wall shuts down

In its statement, Woolworths says that it disabled its wall because some of the comments amounted to hate speech. It didn’t give any definite time frame for when the wall would go back up.

[ed note: interesting that their Google+ page are still open for comments and yet there doesn’t seem to be any there]

This has clearly hit a nerve and people will not stand for it !

HOWEVER, before you grab your pitch fork and gather the town people, there is one little thing that people forgot – to check their facts.Woolworths Rumour and fact

Firstly there is serious reason to believe that the blogger, Justin Harrison,who “broke the news” is a fraud – see info here.

Secondly, if we had to believe blindly what we read on Social Networks we would have buried a lot of people by now who are not dead. Just this weekend alone, it “broke” that Morgan Freeman was dead where he is perfectly alive- see more info here

Thirdly, we get these rumours all the time. During the recent South African storms,a BBM message was sent: “Please stay away from the Gateway robots as the bridge has collapsed. Use alternative roads to get to Gateway. Pass this message on to warn other road users.” – this was a hoax, very much like the WhatsApp message that warned that your icons goes red and yet people react to these.

Woolworth has finally responded with a prominent advertisement in Sunday newspapers, defending its employment policy.

Woolworths does employ white people, contrary to media reports stating otherwise, it said in the ad published in the City Press, Rapport and Sunday Times newspapers.

“Over the past few days, many things have been said about our recruitment practises – specifically, that we don’t employ white people. That is simply not true.

“Woolworths does employ white people. We employ women and men of all races – white, black, coloured, Indian, as well as people with disabilities, and we will continue to do so.”

Not sure why Woolworths didn’t do this sooner though. Why wait ? Why not address this nightmare the same as FedEx did when their brand was trashed ?Why not deploy their Social Media army to counter strike these rumours ? the closest I saw to handling this PR mess was some Tweets like this:

Woowlworths Tweets

and I managed to find this message deep on their site :

Woowlworths Statement

So in summary:

Whilst I fully support Social Networking and Social Media and putting the power of reporting in the hands of every day people, I caution that we need some filters. We need to verify facts before we blindly accept and follow. Before we blindly act.

History is full of examples of people who were “just following orders” and look where that landed us…

Regarding Woolworths, now that you have the facts, you are free to make up your own mind.

More info on social Media: check out this video of “United Breaks Guitar” When Good social goes bad

Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning blogger, YouTube strategist and Podcast. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging and real way that regular consumers can relate to. He also drinks too much coffee!

One thought on “Don’t bother with the facts – grab your pitch forks we are going after Woolworths!

  1. Hi Lion,
    I am always reluctant to take what I hear from social media as truth and only make a value judgement about an issue when I receive the same information from various credible sources. It was not just social media that created the frenzy regarding Woolworth’s discrimination policy in recruiting, but also what was revealed on radio news.
    I personally made a decision to not buy from woolworths for next couple of weeks at least as I do believe that although they have BEE hiring targets they need to meet – the way in which they handled this was demoralizing and the message they are sending is not conducive for building a united nation.
    For woolworths to correct this in my mind would be for them to revisit the platforms they used in communicating their statement in the first place such as radio, and do some form of damage control. But then in doing such a bad job in the first place, whose to say they will rectify if not aggravate the situation – second time round.
    I do believe that the issue touches a nerve of a greater issue and had it not been woolworths, it would have been another giant organisation.
    Thanks for this interesting article. I agree social media is the future of marketing and PR and comments should be entertained with a critical, thinking mind.
    CG

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