26 September, morning. Guido Barilla, co-owner of the famous Parma-based pasta maker, during a live radio interview (La Zanzara, Radio24), proudly claim that gay people would never appear on its brand advertisement because he and his company will always support ‘traditional’ families. After being provoked by the speakers on this topic, he replies that anyone who doesn’t agree with his view can eat other pasta. After few minutes twitter tags #boicottabarilla, #barilla and #boycottbarilla became trend topics (#tt) in Italy. A lot of criticism raise also on Facebook and blog comments. Few hours later images and video parodies start to populate the social environment and later expand on the web. In a couple of hours after his radio interview, Guido Barilla gain the home page of popular online newspaper and, consequently, the top news on Google News. Some direct competitors (e.g. Buitoni, Garofalo, Misura, Bertolli shown below, etc.) took the occasion to declare their open minded point of view and their ironic but strong replies got viral immediately. A double damage.
Too late to repair. A couple of brief textual apologies on Facebook and on Twitter did not seem enough. Two days later (28/9) Guido Barilla recorded a short video (about 1 minute, in Italian, where he looks quite unsecure in comparison with his radio interview). He sent apologies to everyone that felt offended by his previous declaration, saying that he must learn a lot about the contemporary concept of family. Money comes before personal point of views.
Still not enough. What is the most immediate place where you can write something that must be there for everyone curious to read? You might think of twitter, a twitter cover, a facebook cover, your home page. No. It is the SERP (search engine result page). Many people search for the company to find out how it reacts. And SERP is a crucial area where to place a reply that will be immediately noticed by everyone.
How to communicate through SERP? Well, first of all you must do a great SEO to rank on top, possibly before your detractors that are not just competitors. After a fail everyone is potentially your enemy.
Barilla ranks number one and took the occasion to communicate through two SERP channels that are page title and description, as seen in the picture below.
This case shows how social is the spark that triggers the fire (on the web). Social is immediate, fast, spread the virus easy and fast everywhere, potentially with no control and can disappear the same way through easy censorship operated by social media platforms (e.g. certain keywords, tags, images, songs, etc.)
The web is slower but slowly burn and can generate unexpected effects in the medium/long term. Predictions are difficult in both cases and correlations too, despite social and web are both integrated, they are two areas of the same environment.
Title, a typical SEO tool, can be used with the power of social for an immediate response, to enforce an official point of view against doubts rising on other channels. Therefore the few words allowed there (70 characters and 156 for description) must be used in the best way, not forgetting the brand that should be highly visible on title to remark the official site distinguished by the rest.
Copywriting and SEO should definitely help each other, in particular during critical times. Memes don’t come from nothing.