Many moons ago, when the internet was newish and Netscape ruled the land, we took a class called, "Anatomy of a Virtual Community." The idea was to explore and study how online communities functioned, if they were good or bad and if you really could achieve something akin to the mid-Nineties liberal arts school conception of "community." You have to understand this was back when chat rooms were as exotic as Tahiti and there wasn't anything on the internet but porn. The class itself didn't go so well, because most of the students wouldn't participate in the group chat the way the professor envisioned. Point being, it's quite difficult to control behavior in an online environment.

Honda just got hit upside the head with this particular lesson. Yesterday, we posted that the Crosstour Facebook page was overflowing with negative comments regarding the look of Honda's new CUV. Seems that the public at large isn't too thrilled with the design. We went ahead and ran our own poll and looks as if Autoblog readers agree with the Facebookians – 81.7% of you feel the Crosstour should be killed with fire, and just 3.1% of you think it is good looking. And we'd guesstimate that well over 81.7% of the ensuing comments are negative. Many rabidly so. Difference is, we left the comments alone, while Honda was purging 'em on Facebook. To be fair to Honda, they say they have removed a total 28 comments (out of thousands) because of "profanity or inappropriate content." Further, they note that they "...did not remove any comments that simply expressed a negative opinion about the Crosstour." They did, however, remove one that expressed a positive opinion.

Our pal Alex had the presence of mind to grab a screen shot of the above exchange which has since been removed from the Crosstour page. Obviously, this type of thing is embarrassing for Honda. And it illustrates what a sticky pickle modern day PR folks find themselves in. Regarding Eddie Okubo's comments, here's what Honda has to say:
Eddie Okubo is a manager in Honda Product Planning. His post was removed for two reasons: 1) He did not first state that he is a Honda employee and that his posting is his personal -- not Honda's -- opinion. 2) He is not a spokesperson for Honda.
Did Eddie really do anything wrong? He's an employee defending not only his company and that company's product, but his livelihood. Yet his comments and other similar non-sanctioned corporate communique will one day wind up in business textbooks as examples of how social media marketing can go very, very wrong. Also, isn't every employee with a Facebook/Twitter account suddenly a spokesperson if their company decides to use social media? It could be that multinational corporations just aren't ready for Facebook and it's ilk. It's definitely an issue that deserves further study.


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