Companies glad to add their 2 cents through social media

Everyone wanted to be part of the discussion/argument, it seemed. And when that many people are virt

The Federal Communications Commission changed the way the Internet would operate going forward with its decision on net neutrality — but that wasn’t the biggest net news of the day.

There were llamas on the loose. Llamas! That captivated Twitter and TV — and even that got overtaken.

You see, there was this dress that no one could decide whether it was white and gold or blue and black. That debate went from Thursday into Friday across social media and elsewhere.

Everyone wanted to be part of the discussion/argument, it seemed. And when that many people are virtually gathered, companies now feel compelled to jump into the conversation. So they did.

LEGO tweeted about #TheDress. So did Duracell batteries. (“Clearly it’s copper and black.”) Beer makers and candy makers and furniture outlets and even a circus made sure they were represented.

Stewart’s Shops stayed on the sidelines for the high-profile Arizona llama chase, but jumped into the #TheDress dispute — not to resolve, but to push some colorful product on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

What color did you see? #TheDress #blueandblack #whiteandgold We see #icecream

Pictured were blue-and-white Birthday Cake and white-and-gold Crumbs Along the Mohawk ice cream cones.

According to company spokesman Maria D’Amelia, it was the first — but not the last — time the Saratoga Springs-based Stewart’s marketed itself on-the-spot by inserting itself into an Internet meme.

“We see the success it can have in marketing, but we have to be very tactful about what we are doing,” D’Amelia said. “When its enough to create a buzz in our own offices or in our shops, do we want to join in? The silliness of the dress created some creative flow.”

The first Stewart’s foray seemed to be effective: Posted Friday morning, it had 320 likes and 119 shares on Facebook as of 3 p.m., and positive responses from the general public. (“Thanks for the laugh — great marketing idea,” wrote one fan.)

Facebook, where commentators are readily identified, can be a tamer platform than, say, Twitter. And regardless the channel, companies can face a backlash if they inundate social media users with messages that are either clunky or appear craven in the attempt to pirate a popular thread. There is also a concern about tonnage and timing: If companies take too long in crafting a message in the second-by-second social media universe, or if too many companies fill up a hashtag, the moment will be lost.

One local social media expert said companies should take great care at jumping into virtual national conversations that really shouldn’t concern them.

“They hop in and try to be relevant, but if it has nothing to do with the brand people just roll their eyes at it,” said Lisa Barone, vice president of Strategy and Overit, an integrated digital agency in Albany that provides content over multiple platforms. “If it has nothing to do with your brand, don’t. You end up doing more damage. You end up looking a little bit silly.”

Barone, who has more than 36,000 followers on Twitter, said just because the trend is popular in the corporate culture doesn’t mean companies should jump in at every instance.

“Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Your mother told you that,” Barone said. “You should keep you eyes open to opportunities — but don’t force it.”

D’Amelia at Stewart’s agrees with those concerns, which is one of the reasons the company did not tweet during Thursday’s llama chase in Arizona: “We have to know how much is too much.” That said, there are no hard and fast rules, which gives company’s like the convenience store chain flexibility, but also leaves it open potential criticisms.

“We don’t have a rule book per se, but we do have a process that sticks to our brand so that we can relate to our customers, so we can have fun to them,” D’Amelia said. “The ultimate goal is to get more footsteps in the door.”

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