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Target-dog.pngTarget, which for the record, is one of my all-time fave places to shop, has a checkered past – and present – in social media. The reason: they, or someone who is advising them, still believe in message control. Alas, dear Target, message control is, and always has been, an illusion.
Target clearly didn’t get social media in 2007 when they asked students to lie to their Facebook friends, and they’ve run afoul of today over campaign contributions. “Companies like Target should stay out of elections, period,” says MoveOn’s petition.

But in between, Target made some enlightened social media moves – which makes me wonder who gives them advice, and how often they listen, and how they make decisions..

You can lead a horse to water…
As anyone who consults to brands via an agency or consultancy can tell you, companies often hire experts to help them navigate emerging media (or anything else for that matter) and then don’t follow the experts’ the advice. That’s not a problem that can be solved any time soon.
Possible reasons brands are hard of listening
o Excess of self-proclaimed social media gurus dispensing advice
o Proliferation of studies of the obvious, leading to not knowing what to believe-itis
o Scared CMOs who hope to outlast the normal 23-month CEO job life-span
o Agencies who are afraid to say “no” to a client request even if they know it’s wrong
o Digital pollution – firehose of content that makes companies believe they better add more in a hurry or be left behind
o Silos in companies that keep marketing from talking to sales; advertising from learning about social media
o Fear that being transparent will lead to “haters” saying “bad things” about the company
o And then there’s good old fear of change?
Target’s checkered social media past
2007 – Target pissed bloggers off in 2007 when they asked a group of students, known as the Rounders, to lie to their Facebook friends and say they didn’t represent Target. “Your Mission: Try not to let on in the Facebook group that you are a Rounder,… So keep it like a secret!”
They got outed, of course.

TargetTwitter.png2008 Target’s crotch problem
The issue: a blogger complained about a Target advertising campaign that depicted a woman splayed across a big target pattern — the retailer’s emblem — with the bull’s-eye at her crotch.
“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets,” a public relations person wrote to the blogger at ShapingYouth. (Oy vey)
2009 – Target does a terrificBullseye Gives” Facebook campaign to raise $3 million in a week of social media giving through its Facebook page
2010 Target launches social shopping “Merona: My look maker” on Facebook
The app allows potential shoppers to virtually try on, and try out Merona fashions- Target’s best selling sweater line. In addition, computer users can also connect to the Target Web site with a “shop it now” feature, which lets them instantly buy the merchandise.
2010 petition “I won’t shop at Target until it stops spending money on elections. Companies like Target should stay out of elections, period.”
And apparently there are some other issues about human rights about which Target issued this statement
“At Target, we listen to our guests, our team members and our communities – and we have heard them on this issue. We are committed to doing better and regret that we have let down our team members and guests. We are evaluating ways to make sure they know the high value we place on our relationships with them.”
Dear Target: the way to do better is not to tell people on Twitter to email “guest relations.”
a) we want to talk to a human when we have concerns
b) guest relations is not a human
c) you need to answer a complaint where it’s made. If it’s made on Twitter, you need to answer on Twitter. If it’s made on YouTube, you need to answer there, etc.
Hint” The best way to do better is to just do it.