What the Tea Party Protests, Domino's, and Facebook Have in Common

The times, they are a-changing.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

This was a big week for social-networking tools such as Twitter, text messaging, E-mails, and Facebook. In fact, Facebook celebrated its 200 millionth user—keep in mind that's the equivalent of two thirds of the entire population of our country—by partnering with 16 advocacy groups to launch Facebook for Good, so that users can give "virtual gifts" to each other to benefit charity. Using that same social networking technology, thousands of Americans organized at the grassroots level to throw hundreds of Tea Party protests in all 50 states on Wednesday, April 15. Take a minute to look at the taxdayteaparty.com website to get an idea of how wildly popular the whole thing was.

But the real showstopper this week was the disgusting Domino's video on YouTube. In case you haven't heard what happened, the New York Times gives a great account of a prank video made by two Domino's employees doing unmentionable things to the food. The young man and young woman uploaded it to YouTube to entertain their friends, but instead it "went viral" over the social networking sites. They had over a million viewers in no time. They also had felony charges in no time, because the health inspector got there pretty fast and charged them with "delivering prohibited food." You can see their mug shots online.

Domino's has filed a civil lawsuit against them, presumably for lost sales. The phone orders must have stopped cold yesterday. "We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea," acknowledged the company spokesman, Tim McIntyre. I was with a crowd last night when a Domino's delivery man sped down the street—we all laughed and guessed he was on his way to the one person in town who hadn't seen the video yet!

The problem was this, according to the Times:

As the company learned about the video on Tuesday, McIntyre said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. "What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations," he said. In social media, "if you think it's not going to spread, that's when it gets bigger," said Scott Hoffman, the chief marketing officer of the social-media marketing firm Lotame. "We realized that when many of the comments and questions in Twitter were, 'What is Domino's doing about it' " Mr. McIntyre said. "Well, we were doing and saying things, but they weren't being covered in Twitter."

Sounds like they were doing and saying things like putting out company statements in old-fashioned press releases. Finally, more than 24 hours into the biggest crisis the company has faced, the CEO responded on YouTube and the company set up a Twitter account. But they were a day late and a dollar short. Because of social networking sites, in fact, they're many dollars short.

So in just one week, we saw the potential for social-networking sites to have a massive effect on philanthropy, politics, and business. The times are a-changing.

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