Exercise 1: Tom’s of Maine and their use of social media

Tom’s of Maine is a company that makes “natural” toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, and soap with no artificial colors, flavors, or fragrances; and no animal ingredients or animal testing. They have a “goodness philosophy” that entails policies that give back to communities and promote more natural living, such as:
-sharing all ingredients and their sources
-maximizing recyclable and recycled content of their products
-striving for sustainability
-devoting 5% of employee time to volunteering and 10% of company profits to “human and environmental goodness”

I became interested in Tom’s of Maine due to a now infamous commercial that they aired during the Summer last year. The long form of the commercial included a line spoken by the narrator that claimed the company “may not always have made the best decisions,” but was still good nonetheless. Such a claim provoked numerous online queries asking “What exactly did Tom’s of Maine do?” Essentially, the answer was, “They did nothing.” There was no wrongdoing or social injustice- only a lack of total transparency and an overly earnest push to make the consumer believe that they are very, very good. As we learned last week, companies today cannot be semi-transparent; it’s either all or nothing.

What’s also a little disconcerting is the lack of response from the company. Even though they have a fairly strong internet presence (twitter, facebook, youTube, flickr, and a strong website with a blog), I was unable to find any comment from Tom’s of Maine regarding this blunder. This indicates to me that Tom’s needs to either commit to its social media presence with total transparency and a higher level of engagement or get out of the game all together. Many of our readings last week warned of past business blunders where a company participated in social media branding enough to have an online presence, but not enough to be in control of that presence.

However, control may not be an issue with Tom’s of Maine. Tom’s website almost explicitly states that they have total control over all posts on their facebook, twitter, and youTube pages in addition to their website. On their social media policy page, they seem to emphasize honesty and transparency while also stating that product reviews that do not comply with FTC requirements or reflect “typical consumer experience” will be deleted. It is extremely difficult to find even semi-negative comments on their pages, but not too hard when searching other sites using tools such as social mention, Google blog search, and tweetscan. Using these tools, it seems as if Tom’s of Maine is careful to remove overly negative feedback, not respond to feedback that is vaguely negative, and respond only to overtly positive feedback. It is also common to find user blogs featuring very positive reviews of Tom’s products that repeat the same phrase: “This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Toms of Maine. All opinions are 100% mine.”

However, Tom’s of Maine does do a good job of eliciting participation with their users through the use of various promotions and contests. There are many tweets in response to such calls; one example of this is users nominating non-profit organizations to Tom’s of Maine for their consideration in where to direct their philanthropic endeavors.

Overall, Tom’s of Maine social media practices are somewhat lacking. While it is encouraging to see frequent responses and conversations on their facebook and twitter pages, it is very apparent that they only respond to positive feedback and ignore any negative posts, frequently deleting them entirely. There is no response to concerns, only promotion of the company’s good intentions and “good products”.

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