Back in the 1970’s, union farm workers in California organized a lettuce boycott. Not being particularly fond of lettuce, I was happy to join in. This was one of only a few successful consumer boycotts of that time, and it took years to make it work.
During the past six months, we have witnessed three consumer boycotts that produced the desired results within only a few days. The first was the customer revolt against Netflix when it decided to, in effect, double their rates. The slow response from the company put it’s stock into a tailspin, and in the long run, they may never recover. A few weeks ago, Go Daddy customers decided to protest that company’s decision to support SOPA (If you don’t know what SOPA is, click here and learn.) Tens of thousands of hosting customers cancelled their service. Here, do the math: $5.99 per month, every month times 32,000 customers, the number that quit in one 36 hour period, comes to over 2.3 million dollars a year. Go Daddy now thinks SOPA is flawed as is, and has withdrawn its support. And just last week, Verizon tried to charge its customers a $2.00 service fee if they paid their bill by credit card. That boycott barely got off the ground before Verizon said “uncle.”
What’s different between now and 1970’s is the power of the social network. The farm workers had a tough time getting their voices heard. After an appeal made during the Democratic Convention, lettuce sales dropped for two weeks, then went back up. People probably thought the problem was over, and had no way really to know otherwise.
Today, however, the news about NetFlix, Godaddy, and Verizon sped around the world within hours. People reported it in blogs. The blog posting were spread by Facebook. The buzz on Facebook was picked up by the media. And all of this was done within hours. Bloggers proposed solutions, such as “Leave Go Daddy Day” set for December 29th last year.
All of this shows that consumers now have a tremendous new power for dealing with large corporations, or as in the Middle East, with dictatorial governments. It also shows the power of social media, and how it can be used for good or bad, depending on which side you are on.
Companies, large and small, must embrace this power, understand it and harness it for their own good. Have you posted on your company blog and Facebook page today?