Adverse Amazon and its Twittering Effect

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In the communication-oriented world of social media, policy changes and hidden terms of service rarely go unnoticed. Amazon.com is currently feeling the heat from its Twitter audience with its recent policy change that removes sales rankings from books that contain “adult” content. Through de-ranking a book, Amazon does not permit the book to make the “Best Seller” list and usually removes it from its search results.

So what, right? Offensive, adult material should be banned from making a credible “Best Seller” list. Well, in this case, no. Amazon has apparently defined “adult” material as “gay” material in the de-ranking of many award-winning books. According to a Los Angeles Times blog, most of the books that have been de-ranked are those containing homosexual themes, while many of the books that have remained ranked are offensive and crude, including “Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds” and “American Psycho.” Through de-ranking homosexual-themed books and removing them from the search engine, these books will likely lose sales and credibility.

Needless to say, Amazon.com is in the hot seat with its social media audiences. In particular, Twitter has been jam-packed with responses to Amazon’s failure. Using the hashtag “#amazonfail,” popular tweets have called for boycotting Amazon and petitioning against the policy change. The Twitterverse has taken action, and there is no stopping this downward spiral of bad PR.

Amazon has recently responded, calling the de-ranking of homosexual-themed books a “glitch.” Oh how I love vague wording. Again, the downward spiral continues.

Big business’ number one fear is social media, so why then do businesses not see the importance of transparency? If Amazon had brought this policy change to the attention of its audiences, this would not have created such an extreme response. Through attempting to hide this policy, Amazon is now looking at this crisis in a hindsight manner. And furthermore, where is the PR in the managing of the policy change? Allowing only homosexual-themed books to be de-ranked suggests that the checks and balances within the business are not present.

And again, “glitch”? Can somebody please give me a definition of that?

Dear Amazon.com,

Good luck.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Adverse Amazon and its Twittering Effect

  1. This is a great post. And, way to keep it current. This just happened today. Not sure what Amazon is thinking but I’m anxious to see where it goes from here. All I can say is that I may be purchasing more books from Powells.com or Half.com rather than Amazon.

  2. kellimatthews

    Great post, Rachel. I’ve been watching this all day today (we’re talking about listening and monitoring in J412 tomorrow). It’s fascinating that there has been no response from Amazon. A company of Amazon’s size and (apparent) savvy has no excuse for this lack of response.

    Did you see that Powell’s is considering a LGBT sale? That’s smart!

    • rhass2

      Yeah Kelli, I saw your tweet about it! Verrrry smart idea! I wouldn’t be surprised if other book companies like half.com jump on this opportunity. If they’re current with social media and monitoring the tweets, they could definitely use this to their advantage!

  3. Rachel,

    Great post! I’ve been following this issue all day and it is amazing how long it took for Amazon to respond. I agree with your point about the situation turning out differently if Amazon had been transparent about the policy change. As a tech-savvy online company, Amazon should have initiated a conversation about the new sales ranking system and the decision to remove “adult” content. Now, Amazon is doing damage control and thus gaining tons of bad PR. If you google Amazon, I guarantee that its customers are learning about this PR no-no before even locating the actual site.
    The groundswell should be used to research and understand its customer base. But instead of using this platform to better serve its customers, this platform is now being used to ruin the Amazon name.

    As Kelli said, I think many book companies will be taking advantage of this incident and learning from Amazon’s mistakes.

    Great job! Can’t wait to read about how this all unfolds!

    Amanda

  4. Tiffany Gallicano

    Rachel,

    This blog post shows that you are actively listening to the social media world, even on the weekend. This habit will be valuable to your future employer.

    Organizations need people to monitor online communication, and they need to establish a plan for responding to complaints. Setting up Google Alert and Tweet Scan would be part of this as well.

    Thanks for writing about this case!

    Tiffany

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