AMD, Intel, Kingston, and Nvidia & Social Media
The Importance of Social Media as a Game changer for Major Tech Companies
Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising with some of it targeted at Social Media. This is to be expected as word-of-mouth advertising – also known as viral marketing - is very effective. However, issues may arise when the marketing is unexpected – as when you are asking for advice on your favorite tech forum. How do you know that the advice that you are getting is from an unbiased fellow poster? How would you feel to find out that the recommendation you receive from a fellow enthusiast is really from a stealth employee posting just to sell his company’s products?
No major company dares to ignore social media and even Proctor and Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, is now rethinking social media. They recently found that Facebook and Google can be “more efficient” than the traditional media that takes up most of their ten billion dollar a year ad budget.
We are going to look at the social media policies of four major companies that ABT has relations with as media partners. We are going examine the way that AMD, Intel, Kingston, and Nvidia, each set social media policies for their employees. Each of these multi-billion dollar companies have spent years building consumer confidence in their products.
However, the potential for abuse is always present. There is an easy way to target word-of-mouth advertising by using viral marketing. Viral marketing is fine when we are talking about corporate YouTube videos becoming wildly popular due to their cleverness or timing. However, stealth viral marketing is quite dangerous as it undermines trust at its foundation – expecting to get honest feedback from a fellow poster on a tech forum only to find out that they are a walking message board for their employer.
Perhaps even this kind of social media advertising would be OK as long as there is transparency. Ethics demand that an employee posting on a tech forum must disclose employer affiliation when giving advice or experiences regarding his company’s products. However, what happens when there is no disclosure and employees are free to post positive things about their company and negative things about their competitors without disclosure?
AMD, Intel, Kingston and Nvidia
There have been well-documented stealth marketing abuses in the past and this dangerous trend still appears to be continuing unabated; it is extremely effective and it appears to have infected some tech forums. Read on to see what each of the four major companies replied when we asked them these questions:
How does [your company] view social media as a means for creating consumer awareness and how do you interact with it? Are your employees allowed to have personal blogs and may they freely post on Twitter and Facebook? Are they allowed to give advice on tech forums with or without disclosing their employment affiliation? Why did your company chose this social media policy and is it evolving?
We got an almost instant reply from Intel’s PR manager when we presented him with our questions. Clearly Intel has given much thought to their social media policies.
. . . basically many many Intel employees participate in social media and follow some very common sense corporate guidelines such as:
- Be transparent
- Be truthful, but don’t tell secrets or disclose NDA information.
- Be yourself: Stick to your area of expertise; write what you know. If you publish to a website outside Intel, please use a disclaimer something like this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Intel’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”
And we see this happen regularly on the tech forums. Intel employees regularly identify themselves as such and there are often disclaimers in their signatures, “not speaking for Intel Corporation”.
Let’s see what Kingston said.
Kingston is a multi-billion dollar company with thousands of employees worldwide. They are very conservative and their well-thought out reply reflects this:
(Kingston’s reply is quoted below; ABT’s questions are in bold)
In our opinion, social media is a growing area and we need to participate in this space but we do not believe that it has passed traditional media in effectiveness. In certain campaigns or activities, social media is more effective but for the most part traditional media still has a stronghold. At Kingston, we believe that social media does provide an additional aspect of marketing that traditional media does not provide.
Engagement and interactive media are things that traditional media struggles with. Social media provides a more effective solution to engagement and interactive media. For example, a viewer can watch a commercial or view a print advertisement but they cannot interact with a print advertisement. They cannot engage with a commercial on TV. Unless you have other people watching the commercial with you there is no engagement. You can’t communicate with the TV and the commercial. You would need additional tools to do this which social media provides. Social media enables you to engage with companies and advertisements. On Facebook you can see a post or artwork and you can give your opinion. You can ask questions and share it with friends. Twitter and YouTube also give you some of these capabilities. In my opinion, this is the future of marketing and it will only get better.
How does Kingston view social media as a means for creating consumer awareness and how do you interact with it?
We participate globally in social media on a basic level. We concentrate on influencers, page maintenance, launch communication and monitoring for issues that arise (forums, twitter, Facebook, e-tail sites). Our resources are limited in this area so we try to focus on the larger sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ (New)).
We try to share ideas and content globally to create efficiencies (shared resources). When we have a campaign, social media is always part of the marketing mix. We add QR codes and social media links on print advertising and banners. We also put social media links on our packaging and marketing collateral. Our global social media website is http://www.kingston.com/social. We do social media contests and/or activities around most of our product launches. We are slowly growing in this space as we are carefully carving out our social media ecosystem.
Are your employees allowed to have personal blogs and may they freely post on Twitter and Facebook?
We have a policy in place where we only allow authorized people within our company to participate in forums and social media. We do this to ensure our voice is consistent throughout this space and to make sure the information is correct and up to date. There are pros to letting more people within a company to post but it’s too risky for us at Kingston. We tend to be more conservative when it comes to our brand communication.
Are they allowed to give advice on tech forums with or without disclosing their employment affiliation?
Only authorized people within the company are allowed to give advice on social media. On the rare occasions we give advice or answer questions on tech forums, we fully disclose that it is Kingston doing this.
Why did your company chose this social media policy and is it evolving?
Answered this above.
These are great questions. Thanks for reaching out to us.
Kingston tend to be conservative. For them it is a blanket “no” on their employees participating in social media; only a designated few are allowed to be the voice of Kingston and when they do, they declare themselves.
Nvidia has had their own issues with a stealth marketing “focus group” back in 2006 when AEG ran their marketing for them. After a public exposure, their contract with AEG was terminated, their Focus Group was taken in house and since then, each member is required to show their relationship to Nvidia in their signature on tech forums.
Nvidia told ABT that they don’t allow their employees to post on tech forums at all. Their social media policy is similar to Kingston’s. Usually only one employee is generally allowed to even post on Nvidia forums. There have been very rate exceptions at other independent tech forums to specifically answer a question. In each case, the poster’s affiliation to Nvidia is made clear so that there is transparency.
AMD wouldn’t reply to our requests so we had to do some research. It appears that they may have a fairly new social media policy:
AMD Social Media Guidelines
AMD’s strong culture is founded on a fierce desire and passion to innovate on behalf of our customers. For all our employees around the globe, we strive to create an environment where thoughts are shared, ideas are debated, and innovations are created. One mechanism to share such ideas is through online social media tools.
The Internet and social networking have become a valuable and effective way to communicate directly with consumers and AMD enthusiasts. AMD encourages public conversations by employees in relation to their AMD role through social networks, blogs and other online communities, as appropriate.
Examples of social media tools and technologies include:
- Web logs (blogs)
- One-to-many instant messaging tools (e.g., Twitter)
- User forums
- Social networking sites (e.g., Facebook)
- Rich Content sites (Flickr, YouTube, TwitPic, etc.)
- Bookmarking (Digg, Delicious)
In the spirit of open dialogue and idea sharing, AMD allows employees to use social media tools and applications to communicate externally on behalf of AMD on topics in which they are subject matter experts. The guidelines below are intended to provide best practice tips to help AMD employees create productive and beneficial social media interactions.
Note: These guidelines are subject to, and in compliance with, AMD’s Social Media Legal Policy and other AMD polices, AMD’s Worldwide Standards of Business Conduct, and all applicable legal requirements.
Guidelines for AMD Employees Engaging in Social Media
Please note that all interactions with traditional media (press and industry analysts) and financial/ investment analysts are managed by the AMD Communications team in compliance with the AMD External Communications and Quiet Time policy.
If you are an active social media engager, you by default are representing AMD’s views as well as your own views. Please consider this when communicating.
- Discuss what you know. Speak about topics that are close to you and about which you are knowledgeable. Smart, compelling content and a specific point of view can help you engage with others in conversations.
- Be yourself. Letting your personality come through is encouraged. It’s part of what makes social media unique and engaging. However, don’t be too informal when discussing AMD or anything related to your work – always remain professional. And always use your real name when communicating on behalf of AMD, and identify yourself as an AMD employee.
- Nurture conversations. Social media is designed to encourage open-ended conversations that invite replies, links between people, sharing of relevant content and further interaction. Providing worthwhile information and interesting perspective can help to keep the conversation going. The most successful social media engagers are those who pay attention to what others are saying about the topic they want to write about, and generously reference and link to them. Remember the Web is all about links; when you see something interesting and relevant, link to it; you’ll be doing your readers a service, and you’ll also generate return links.
- Protect your relationships. Ensure that any comments about companies and products are accurate, fair and can be substantiated, and avoid disparaging comments. Treat your customer, partner, vendor and colleague relationships with care. Sharing sensitive, private or confidential information about AMD or its partners is not permitted. Be judicious and careful about what you share online, as it can spread rapidly.
- Use your best judgment. Remember that there are always consequences to what you publish. If you’re about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, pause, reflect on why that is and consider how to edit or modify. Trust your instincts. Recognize the diverse set of customs, values and points of view that exist across AMD and avoid controversial topics of a personal nature (e.g., politics, religion). And never respond in anger.
- Take responsibility. Be the first to respond to your own mistakes. If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier comment, make it clear that you have done so. You have sole responsibility for what you publish in any form of online social media.
- Be open and clear. The lines between public and private, personal and professional are often blurred in social media. By identifying yourself as an AMD employee online, you are quickly connected to colleagues, customers, competitors and more. You should ensure that content associated with you is consistent with your work at AMD.
- No hidden agendas. If you should receive a request from a blogger to supply AMD products or AMD-powered PC systems for review, you should encourage them to be open and upfront on their blog, stating that they received AMD products for review from AMD. AMD does not pay bloggers to review products.
- Timeliness is key. The fast-paced world of social media demands quick responses to be useful, so social media engagement should be considered a commitment. If you initiate an online conversation, it’s important to regularly monitor the conversation and put aside time to re-engage in a timely manner.
- Cite your sources. Consider everything you find online copyrighted material. If you reference someone else’s idea, image, etc., cite them and/or link to the original content. Conversely, consider disclaimers if you feel they are necessary (e.g., “the opinions expressed are my own,” or “I believe that…” instead of presenting a statement or opinion as fact).
The Reality of AMD’s Social Media Policy
Evidently AMD’s posted social media policy is very similar to Intel’s. Unfortunately, the issue that AlienBabelTech (ABT) has with AMD is that their employees do freely post on tech forums without identifying themselves and that they disparage AMD’s competitors. This actually lead to AMD’s blacklisting of ABT as a review site when we pointed this impropriety out to AMD. How did this come to happen?
When Social Media Policies are not enforced
It came to this editor’s attention last year, that the stealth marketing position once held by AEG Focus Group has been replaced by AMD employees posting vociferously, particularly at AnandTech forums (ATF). It became obvious that they are organized and that they get their information from AMD – often before this editor received the same news. Any posting at AT Video forum that is not deemed positive to AMD by these posters has led them to unfairly trash the reputations of independent tech sites and reviewers that don’t paint AMD in the best possible light – generally exhibiting very rude behavior and worse.
“yes there are AMD employees in our midst here, and they hide for good reason“
—–AnandTech Forum Administrator Idontcare
When this was pointed out to AMD by this editor, their Edelman PR representative admitted, “we see the posts and we don’t care what they say”. And there is no doubt whatsoever that they are AMD employees because the AnandTech Forum Administrator admitted it: ”yes there are AMD employees in our midst here, and they hide for good reason”, he declared.
By ignoring enforcement of their own social media policy, AMD is on a slippery slope. AMD’s choice of Edelman as their PR agency – where many of their fired marketing employees went to work (again for AMD, now as Edelman employees) - is suspect as Edelman has been busted for stealth viral marketing in the past.
We believe that companies should strive for excellence and AMD should improve its product and image by taking constructive criticism into account. We give the highest marks to Kingston who completely controls their social media policy and forbids their employees to post at all. We give Nvidia, “most improved” as they strictly forbid their employees to post on social media and they demand transparency for their Focus Group. Intel also has many employees posting on forums and usually we see them post as Intel employees, but ”not speaking for Intel”.
How does anyone know that any advice about AMD hardware that they are getting on tech site forums is not coming from AMD employees?
Only AMD appears to have issues with their employees posting on tech forums and giving advice without disclosing their relationship to AMD. How does anyone know that any advice about AMD hardware that they are getting on tech site forums is not comning from AMD employees? This is not a good situation for the tech community and it is not good for AMD as it undermines trust. We ask that AMD please enforce their own written social media policy as it does not look good to have their employees ripping on their competitors; especially without disclosure.
A corporate image is priceless. We genuinely like AMD and their products and we have always evaluated and treated them fairly. We continue to invite their representatives to respond and we will be glad to publish it here.
We started out at ABT without relations to any company, and together with our members we have built it into a great site by hard work and by honest detailed reviews. We will not be beholden to any company just because we review their products. We encourage manufacturers representatives – AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcomm, Intel, Samsung, Kingston, LG, Sony, etc. – to ethically and professionally participate and all of them are invited to have their products openly reviewed, evaluated, reported on by ABT fairly.
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