Starbucks Tries Social Media on Flickr, Fails, Locks Down All Discussion Threads to Silence Their Critics
I was troubled today to see Starbucks take the draconian step of locking down 100% of their group threads in the Official Starbuck’s group on Flickr. All threads were locked today and a note was added to their Flickr Group reading:
“This group has helped inform us of the inconsistent experiences photographers have in our stores. We have put group discussion on hold until we have more updates on an official policy for photography in our stores. We appreciate your patience and encourage you to check back in the following months for an update.”
Censorship is never good and for a corporation to open a dialogue with their customers and then shut it down due to criticism is pretty much directly in contrast to the transparency that social media ought to be about.
In December I blogged about the difficulty that Starbuck’s was having articulating a reasonable photo policy in their Flickr group where they have been being attacked by photographers over the course of the past months. Many photographers on Flickr felt it was somewhat hypocritical of Starbucks to encourage photographers to post photos representing their “Starbuck’s experience” when so many photographers were regularly being told that they are not allowed to photograph in Starbuck’s stores.
The question about whether or not photography is or is not allowed in Starbucks stores still seems very much in the air, and from the request that photographers now check back with the group in the “months” ahead (after having this issue linger since September of last year) it doesn’t sound like they will be resolving this question anytime soon. Taking over six months to respond to photographers on this issue is a huge Starbucks FAIL. And now locking their threads to avoid continued criticism for what will likely be many more months, well, it’s obvious that Starbucks does not get social media and an even bigger FAIL.
Starbucks should apologize to the photographers who have invested many hours in this group of theirs and reopen threads. They should make it a priority to establish a reasonable photo policy and have it communicated to their stores ASAP. Of course their timing for shutting down their group threads, late on a Friday afternoon where it hopefully will get lost over the weekend on the web is also pretty obvious and weak.
There is an unlocked thread on another non-official Starbucks group about this issue here.