On January 16, Zappos.com became the latest in a series of large brands affected by hackers. In an email to customers, CEO Tony Hsieh announced that the information from 24 million customers was exposed after their server was hacked. But how did online consumers respond? Despite Zappos’ stellar customer service reputation, only 6% of the conversation chose to defend the retailer. Zappos’ silver lining: the percentage of consumers announcing their decision to “never use Zappos again” was the same size.
The positive sentiment about Zappos this week may be small, but they’re fairing better than Sony Playstation did last April.
In late April 2011, Sony’s PlayStation network was hacked, exposing millions of customer accounts. In the first four days after their official announcement, the brand saw no measurable positive sentiment from consumers.
Although Sony’s conversation wasn’t positive, it lacked a negative theme of the Zappos’ conversation: there was no measurable discussion of ditching their PlayStation console.
Beyond the overall tone, the specific words and phrases used in these conversations are very different. The language surrounding the Zappos hack is quite actionable: the phrase “change your password” makes a number of appearances in the conversation.
When Sony was hacked, the language didn’t include the same kind of empowering language. Instead, Sony PlayStation was the focus:
Why are these conversations different? We have a few hypotheses:
1) By alerting its customers early, Zappos framed the conversation in an empowering way; they informed customers on how best to help themselves. Sony waited almost a week after its system went down before explaining the problem; it allowed both traditional and social media to form opinions first.
2) It’s an obvious statement, but Hardware (like a PlayStation) is naturally “stickier” than service brands. It’s much easier for consumers to ditch Zappos than the PlayStation network. In this way, service brands absolutely must act early to frame the conversation.
3) Timing is everything, and Sony fell first. During the first four days of the incident, Sony’s volume is almost 6x larger than Zappos’. And much of the neutral “sharing news” category discusses the future of cyber security through the lens of Sony PlayStation. In this way, Sony softened the blow—at least in the near term—for brands with similar incidents. Leaked information no longer new news.
Brian Sullivan and Mitch Brooks also contributed to this analysis and blog post.