UPDATED: Snoos.ws, ICUC Moderation, Neal’s Yard and User Generated Content: Epic Fail

Risk management office has a giant sharp metal structure over entrance door

Snoo.ws – which specialises in user generated content, and is published by the specialist company ICUC Moderation Services – has recently blogged about Neal’s Yard’s unfortunate recent appearance on the Guardian’s Ethical Living blog. However, especially given that snoo.ws are styled as communication specialists, we found their coverage of this story to be a really striking fail (to use a social media term with which they are familiar).

Discussing a story about Neal’s Yard Remedies selling homoeopathic remedies for malaria (now withdrawn) snoo.ws states that

The story was leaked to the Guardian, a major UK daily, which ran the story and opened a forum on the controversial issue called You Ask, They Answer.

Not quite. The malaria story was ‘leaked’ through an MHRA press release, just over a year ago. Also, the ‘you ask, they answer’ feature on the Guardian website encouraged readers to discuss a range of issues about Neal’s Yard Remedies, offering a

chance to grill them: from the controversy surrounding the chain’s removal of a homeopathic malaria remedy to the benefits and reasons to switch to organic beauty products.

Snoo.ws also state that

by [Neal’s Yard] not actively monitoring its online brand image, they failed to capitalize on an opportunity to tell their side of the story

No, it looks like snoo’s monitoring of this story is flawed. According to the Guardian, Neal’s Yard Remedies were aware of this discussion of the company and had agreed to participate. Unfortunately, after seeing some of the early questions, it seems like Neal’s Yard Remedies chose not to respond.

Strengthening the impression that their monitoring of this story is flawed, snoo.ws state that

No where [sic] does it state that Neil’s Yard Remedies was aware of this forum or was a willing participant

However, the Guardian site promises (in the second sentence of the first paragraph of its introduction to this feature) that

For the next four days, ethical skin and body care products firm Neal’s Yard Remedies will be doing its best to answer your questions below.

As to whether Neal’s Yard Remedies were a willing participant, basic research would have shown that the Guardian have made explicit that

The company had agreed to participate

The explicit timeline was laid out in exquisite detail by Adam Vaughan on May 28 in a follow-up post where he invited no lesser a PR luminary than Max Clifford to comment upon The PR lessons from Neal’s Yard Remedies public debate U-turn. Snoo posted their discussion of the Neal’s Yard Remedies story on May 29.

I did try to engage with Snoo.ws on this – posting a comment on their blog – but they have not responded yet. Some observers might think that that this is not an appropriate way to deal with the story about Neal’s Yard Remedies or with my user generated content and not the best example of the usefulness of social media engagement or tracking.

Snoo.ws confidently promises to

profile innovative uses of UGC [User Generated Content] and showcase new UGC contest and campaign ideas.

ICUC Moderation Services Inc. – the publisher of Snoo.ws – declare themselves to be

more than just a moderation company. We lead companies through the integration and execution of user generated content campaigns by protecting brands, building communities, and acting as the eyes and ears of the brand in an online community.

Given this striking confidence, I can’t help but recall Kruger and Dunning’s wonderful paper on how one can be unskilled and unaware of it [PDF]. For people presenting themselves as specialists in user generated content, the way in which snoo.ws handled this story is a truly epic fail.

UPDATE: courtesy of a comment from brainduck, it appears that snoo.ws used a picture with a Creative Commonslicense which requires attribution to illustrate their post. They failed, though, to give the original author credit for their work – classy. Another fail from the specialists at snoo.ws.

UPDATE 2: courtesy of Neuroskeptic, we highlight the concern that Snoo feels for someone called Neil who seems somehow to be caught up in the Neal’s Yard Remedies kerfuffle.

No where does it state that Neil’s Yard Remedies was aware of this forum or was a willing participant…Because of the company’s inaction Neil’s Yard Remedies appeared cowardly…If Neil’s Yard Remedies was engaging the public prior to this they would have had a pretty good idea of the things that would be said and therefore would have likely been in a better position to respond.

We hope things resolve themselves for Neil pretty quickly as that would be very irritating and even downright annoying if he had a brand name or image to protect.

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10 Comments

Filed under patrick holford

10 responses to “UPDATED: Snoos.ws, ICUC Moderation, Neal’s Yard and User Generated Content: Epic Fail

  1. Glad you blogged about this – I read the Snoo.ws account and was distinctly unimpressed. Given their misunderstandings of the ‘leaked’ story and Neals Yard’s ‘unawareness’ of the Guardian article, I’m not sure I’d want Snoo acting as the eyes and ears of my (hypothetical) brand in an online community.

    Kruger and Dunning’s paper is a favourite of mine and (coincidentally) I was sitting in the sunshine reading another paper on that same subject today – Burson, Larrick & Klayman (PDF). The authors claim that the relationship between task performance and judgment accuracy reported by Kruger and Dunning depends on task difficulty. The way I read it, the authors think that people are likely to be “unskilled and unaware” of it only in relation to tasks seen as easy. (“…on difficult tasks, where there is a negative bias, the worst performers are the most accurate”.)

  2. Michael Gray

    Advertising companies exist to tell lies about the product that they are hired to promote.
    That is the only reason that they exist.*
    The product would sell itself, otherwise.
    Advertising firms naturally, (and unconsciously), weed out the employees who are essentially honest and unable to lie effectively.

    What this results in, eventually, is a firm of ad execs that mainly consists of staff who are able to lie to themselves so effectively that it becomes a ‘way of life’ for them, such that they are powerless, even with effort, to utter truths so bleedin’ obvious that a six year old can identify them.

    ———————
    * Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky and the Media (1993)

    • I take your sentiment but don’t agree with the whole. There are probably several products that could not sell themselves because people did not know about them or (perhaps) fully understand them – the food market is riven with these.

      However – yes to Manufacturing Consent, a classic read, along with Barthes on Panzani.

      As ever, Tessimond’s The Ad Man seems an appropriate conclusion:

      He hunts for ever-newer, smarter ways
      To make the gilt seem gold; the shoddy, silk;
      To cheat us legally; to bluff and bilk
      By methods which no jury can prevent
      Because the law’s not broken, only bent.

  3. jdc, can’t find it because our search seems to have disappeared but I think we discussed the Burson et al. a while back following Overcoming BiasAll Are Skill Unaware (also references the more recent Kruger and Dunning).

    ETA: we mention the Overcoming Bias here – can’t find where we discussed it.

    • Thanks dvnutrix. Once I’ve got my head round the Burson et al I will take a proper look at the 2008 Ehrlinger et al paper. I don’t want to comment too much on Ehrlinger et al as I have only briefly skimmed through it, but the authors of this blog may have found the comment about poor performers showing “dramatic overconfidence on tasks about which they have likely received substantial feedback in the past” of particular interest.

      BTW, all this talk of overconfidence reminds me of the NeuroLogica post How Confident Are You? – “For the critical thinker it is important to avoid unjustified confidence, and to understand what factors may lead us to a high degree of confidence when we are in fact wrong.”

  4. They also repeatedly spell “Neal’s” wrong.

  5. Thanks to snoo.ws readers for making us aware of the errors in our article: “Neal’s Yard Remedies and its UGC PR disaster,” and for keeping us on our toes. We appreciate your candor and have made corrections to the post.

    • Alisha – thanks for correcting. As well as acknowledging the errors at the top of the post, it might be useful if you linked across to the post where we pointed this out?

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