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Home » Engagement, News, social media screw-up

Goldman Sachs and the anatomy of a resignation letter gone viral

Submitted by on March 15, 2012 – 2:01 pm2 Comments

The publication yesterday of the bombshell “Why I left Goldman Sachs” resignation letter left company brass in New York completely unprepared for the global fire storm of chatter that it’s stirred. To be sure, Goldman, a notoriously anti-social company, has taken a huge hit to its reputation – not to mention a $2.2 billion haircut off its market cap – that will be tough to buff clean any time soon.

That’s because a PR crisis that takes root and spreads on social media (and these days, they pretty much all do) is a mismatch for Goldman. Goldman’s top brass comes from a more secretive corporate culture of closed-door meetings and privileged information. It has adopted this stance even during the past few years as Goldman Sachs has been repeatedly fending off populist rage. And the battle ground has been on Facebook with groups like Goldman Sachs are Financial Terrorists, on Twitter, and on YouTube, turf where high-priced lobbyists, lawyers and a well-oiled PR machine are of little effect to fight today’s reputation management campaign.

Here’s why… Let’s take this channel by channel

Twitter

Goldman Sachs and the resignation letter have been trending discussion items around the globe over the past 24 hours. The big influencers who’ve weighed in so far are incredulous about just how vicious and candid the author, Greg Smith, was in his assessment of a rip-off culture that seeks to dupe “muppet clients” above all else. One of the top tweets, by BBC’s Robert Peston, was re-Tweeted over 1,110 times (and counting).

Also, it’s hard to find anybody coming to the defense of the investment banking behemoth. Yes, people are questioning Smith’s motives, but few are standing up for Goldman.

Assessment: it will take some time for the air to clear on Goldman so it can go back to muppet business as usual.

Facebook

Again, Goldman here has almost no presence to speak of, but there are scores of anti-Goldman Facebook groups and pages who are gleefully re-posting the news and leaving their comments.

Assessment: all this negative Facebook chatter is not great news for Goldman’s future social network recruitment efforts.

Google and the SEO effect

Here’s where Goldman’s old-school response really hurts. A simple Google search of “Goldman Sachs” and up pops hundreds of news stories replaying every embarrassing detail of the resignation letter. These will fade in time. But there’s also on page 1 of Google the link to the resignation letter, which was published in The New York Times, as well as a parody of the letter from the humor blog, Borowitz Report. Ordinarily, it would take time to knock these well-shared links off page 1. With Goldman, it could take longer simply because there is such a paucity of recent, good news about Goldman that people are sharing.

Assessment: This is what Goldman will be staring at for some time to come:

Just this week Goldman hired Richard L. “Jake” Siewert Jr. as its new head of global communications. Siewert is former press secretary to President Bill Clinton. It remains to be seen if Siewert decides as the first order of business a more social-savvy approach to corporate comms. It would certainly make Goldman’s crisis comms and reputation management work much easier to handle in the future.

Learn from the digital pioneers, brands like Coca-Cola, Carnival Cruises, Whole Foods, Vodafone and scores of others. Their social media blunders – in the areas of crap customer service, plain dumb marketing or simply being caught short in a crisis – provide valuable lessons from which to shape future corporate comms policy. It all can be found in our new e-book, #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One. Buy the book today on Amazon UK, Amazon or on Lulu where you can find it in paperback and epub.

2 Comments »

  • Patrick says:

    Not the first, and certainly not the last time that the ‘insides’ of a big corporate will find its way leaking out into public view. Corporates should rightly review their behaviour behind closed doors.

    However there’s also a significant danger of unfounded, slanderous comment getting out… and if it’s juicy enough, people will happily forward it, share it and, potentially, cause a lot of damage. A kind of virtual mob-mentality.

    Ultimately I suppose we all need to take responsibility for our actions.

  • [...] Social Media Influence has thoroughly analysed the Goldman Sachs crisis and their insights are available here. [...]

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