Some companies are loved, others are hated. That general perception carries over to media coverage and public discussions of their mistakes. At the recent PRSA International Conference panel on ethics in Philly my colleague Rick Murray pointed out this double-standard when it comes to Wal-Mart and Target. People generally hate Wal-Mart and love Target.

Granted, Wal-Mart has made a few social media mistakes and has been raked over the coals for it, but how about Target?

Recently Kaye Sweetser posted about a situation with Target’s Rounders program and one of her students. You can read the entire post to get all the details.

In short, Target instructed their Rounders to keep their relationship with Target a secret. When one of her students questioned this on Target’s Facebook wall the thread was removed.

Was there a mass outcry over this? Not really. A front page article on the New York Times? Nope. Why? A double standard? What do you think?

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8 Responses to The Double Standard: Does Target Get a Social Media Pass?

  1. Kevin Dugan says:

    Josh – You’re calling out Target here as Kaye did on her blog. Are these actions comparable to the Wal Mart Across America RV reaction? Not by a long shot. But it’s a start.
    Murray is correct in that we’re more likely to give a brand the benefit of the doubt the first few times it acts inconsistently with our established view of that brand. Does the media help inform these views? Yes.
    I’m not saying what Target did was right. I am saying we’re more likely to forgive them for unethical Facebook behavior – this time. But we should not ignore it or not call them out on it.

  2. Josh Hallett says:

    I agree Kevin that past behavior does guide what response is doled out, but it also goes on to perpetuate the double standard :-)

  3. Looks like a double standard to me. Not as bad as astroturfing blogs quite yet, but definitely a disappointing development for a loved social media brand.
    Good call out, and I’ll be sure to share it with my network.

  4. The response to the Walmart astroturf blog came in the context of a larger campaign against Walmart. The Walmart astroturf blogs were part of a reputation repair effort gone bad.
    Double standard or not, Walmart will continue to feel heat until they sign a union agreement or some other corporation takes the title of Corporate Villain. That’s why corporations need to recognize the early warning signals that they are inspiring popular contempt.

  5. KDPaine says:

    I think you just defined the value of a reputation. Target is forgiven more readily because they have great relationships and a great reputation. WalMart has a lousy reputation and therefore hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt

  6. Well, I’m no expert at all things Wal-Mart and Target but the lack of a mass outcry is due to the relationship people already have with Target. Their support is so great that they’re sort of protecting the brand in a way. I’m not sure if this makes any sense. But have you ever had a friend who did something wrong and yet you chose to forgive him or her and let things go? And that you didn’t really forgive this other person who basically did the same thing…?

  7. Ugh. I meant to say MAY BE DUE and not IS DUE.

  8. rosie siman says:

    I think it’s difficult because there aren’t always laws with regard to ethics. People generally know when they’re acting ethically or unethically but there aren’t always specific punishments/deterrents so people are more likely to think they will be able to get away with being unethical. And because a lot of larger corporations have been unethical, they tend to pass the blame around a lot. I mean, why don’t we, as consumers, have higher standards?? I don’t think it’s unnecessarily about the “severity” of being unethical– It’s the fact that you were unethical, period.
    Thanks for covering this, Josh. It made the front page of Minneapolis’ Star Tribune: (where Target’s headquarters are located). I also received a Facebook message from a Target employee in Minneapolis and he said that while the Star Tribune was always on the tables during break, the day the story ran front page, there were no papers in sight. He also told me that all Target employees were specifically instructed how they could use their PERSONAL blog and given regulations about all posts. Interesting, eh?

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