Amazon.com Lesson Is Don't Mess with Customer in Age of Twitter, Facebook

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Book authors and Amazon.com customers mounted a social networking campaign using Twitter and Facebook to decry what some perceive as a virtual book ban of gay and lesbian books. Business owners should take note of the power of social networks in the hands of dissatisfied customers.

If you type #AmazonFAIL into the search window of Twitter today, you are likely to find a wealth of posts and articles about Amazon.com's recent embarrassing mistake. Somehow, the company that some credit with inventing consumer electronic commerce by selling books online has overnight managed to earn a reputation as a virtual book burner.

Amazon.com was accused of virtually banning books by removing the sales rankings of many well-known gay and lesbian books. Amazon.com subsequently issued a statement saying gay and lesbian books had not been singled out and that the incident was a glitch that affected books of a sexual nature, including some health-related books.

Click here to read more about the controversy over Amazon.com books losing their sales rankings.

So some consumers and authors cried book ban, Amazon.com took its time to issue a statement calling it a "ham-fisted" error affecting 57,310 books, and others speculated as to whether the Internet commerce giant was covering up the fact that it had been hacked, a claim made by a hacker that Amazon.com denied.

An Associated Press account of the incident says authors were contacted by Amazon.com well in advance of the incident and told their books would be placed in an "Adult" category. Affected authors included James Baldwin and Gore Vidal.

There's so much intrigue in this story that has yet to play itself out, and it will probably be weeks before we know what really happened, if we ever learn the truth.

But one lesson to be learned by businesses of all types is that today's consumers, customers and clients have more of a voice than they ever have had before. They can communicate with each other and band together, with or without any company's permission or consent. They can spread negative publicity about your business in a flash—as quickly as they can type the characters "#AmazonFAIL" and hit return.

In an age when customers can connect with each other via social networking sites and services such as Facebook and Twitter, it's time to start monitoring those networks. And maybe it is even time to start leveraging their power for positive promotion of your company.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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