How The Fed's Facebook PR Campaign Went Terribly Wrong

Over the weekend we reported that just days after the Fed's launched its first Facebook page last Thursday, in an attempt to mollify the masses with this odd public relations gambit in which the Fed tried to pass off as "one of the people", the result was... "not what it had expected." Overnight, even American Banker chimed in, reported that "when the Federal Reserve Board finally launched its own Facebook page last week, the response was as swift as it was predictable. The page was quickly overrun by critics, who angrily denounced the central bank as a tool of Wall Street and accused it of working against the American public. "The Federal Reserve is the root of all problems in the United States," Luke Peets, a libertarian, wrote in a response that earned nearly 500 likes on its own and was typical of the commentary on the page."

Ironically, while the Fed racked up "likes" for the page,  topping 11,000 by Monday afternoon leading many to wonder just which Bangladeshi clickfarm Janet was printing money for to burnish the Fed's image, the comments it received were universally negative, leaving some - like this website for example - to wonder how long it would be before the central bank would decide to retreat.

Amusingly, American Banker pointed out something spot on: just like everything else it does, the Fed had zero real world experience when it came even to its first foray into FaceBook, which also explains why this PR attempt was such a debacle:

The Fed’s move surprised more than internet trolls, however, but also social media experts, who questioned what the central bank was trying to accomplish and its overall commitment to social media. To some, the page appeared to take a particularly clueless approach.

 

All of the postings — eight by deadline — were either press releases, speeches by officials or general explainers on the nature of the Fed system. Essentially, the Fed is using Facebook as one more way in which it releases its standard public relations material.

 

That fundamentally misunderstands the nature of Facebook, which is a social network designed for interaction and conversation — not the simple spouting of PR.

The Fed is "checking a box," said Frank Eliason, the head of customer experience for Zeno Group and formerly head of global social media at Citigroup. " 'We were told we should be in social media.' This is the biggest mistake I see." Perhaps just like the Fed "was told" to lower rates to zero and print money 7 years ago, and realize in retrospect that all those "conspiracy theorists" who had slammed its policy as destructive and clueless, had been spot on.

Meanwhile, the farce continued:

Social media experts universally faulted the Fed for failing to respond to any comments it received. No one expected the central bank to take on trolls opposed to, say, the existence of the Fed itself. But failing to even generally respond is a big mistake, they said.

 

"They are not responding at all from what I can see," said Jennifer Abernethy, president of Socially Delivered, a global social media management concierge firm, and the author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing."

 

"They don’t need to respond to everybody, but at the end of the day, post some kind of response," Abernethy said. "They need to see if they can turn it back around and get it to be more of a conversation."

Sadly they can't, because in this particular case it really is the Fed, alone, against the entire world, and any additional response would lead to an even more aggravated battering by the commentariat.

"That may be its most egregious error, experts said — and a sign that the Fed’s social media strategy will be a failure." By just posting press releases and speeches, the Fed may be inadvertently reinforcing critics’ views of the institution.

Considering how many times the Fed itself has admitted that its critics were right, this shouldn't really be a surprise.

"You really want to come across as one with the community rather than ‘I’m speaking at you,' " Eliason said. " 'Let me teach you about the Federal Reserve' — that’s not being one with the community. It’s sending a message that we view ourselves as above. It’s playing into the stereotype of what people think."

Frank... it's not a stereotype.

And for those who missed all the fun on Sunday, here is a great video summary courtesy of Mile Maloney.