Cash4Gold and the Ensuing Social Media Firestorm

The tale of Cash4Gold SuperBowl ad buy should have been a storybook tale extolling of the value of effective advertising.  The Cash4Gold story could have read, “Business buys SuperBowl ad.  Traffic to website increases 10 fold  and justifies obscene ad cost.”

Instead, the Cash4Gold SuperBowl ad buy is a cautionary tale  which should serve as a warning to any business of how social media will “get you” if you or your business model are less than authentic.

Barry Hurd over at 123 Social Media began telling this tale on February 2nd when he warned in his first post Cash4Gold Superbowl $2.7 Million Online Reputation Nightmare

Chief Marketing Officers beware: before spending a hefty sum of your 2009 budget on having two celebrities do a 30 second Superbowl ad… make sure you clean up your online reputation first!

(Note – read on – because Cash4Gold tried to do exactly that – only they tried to “buy” their way out of the social media muck they found!)  Three days later, Barry continues the story in Cash4Gold – 72 Hours Later, Dugg to Death where he reports:

As of this morning: if you go to Google and do a search for “Cash4Gold” or “Cash 4 Gold” you will find the second search result to be an article titled “10 Confessions Of A Cash4Gold Employee” on the Consumerist. The article talks in-depth about how the Cash4Gold company works behind the scenes (and it is not a glowing review.)

It’s 48 hours after his 2nd post, I did as Barry suggests.  I did a search on Google for the term for “Cash4Gold” (without the hyphens – as “regular” people would do) and found the situation for Cash4Gold’s online reputation is even worse than Barry reported.

When I did my search – I was greeted with a Google Ad for Cash4Gold which reads: “Deal with Refiner – Maximum Payout! Request a FREE Kit. 100% Guarantee.”  Cash4Gold is definitely AWARE of the firestorm and has decided to try yet another way to “buy” themselves out of their continually deteriorating online reputation.

The organic search reveals why they’re having to spend money to get the top listing for their own domain name: the first organic search result which is an article in the LA Times Beneath Cash4Gold’s shiny veneer, a dull reality.

Guess you can’t count on people to skip the news stories and go straight to the the 2nd organic listing for the business name which is the Cash4Gold website so when in doubt, throw more money at the problem and hope it goes away.

Meanwhile, the list of blogs which have picked up the Cash4Gold story continues to grow.  When I did my search – next listing following the Cash4Gold website was an entry over at the blog Cockeyed Citizen: Cash4Gold Will Offer One-Third of the Actual Value for your Gold.

Turns out, this blog post is NOT something new.  Turns out, this blog post has been up for a while and was the first in a two part series written by Rob Cockerham.   According to Rob’s 2nd post, Cash4Gold did go on a “search and destroy” mission to try to clean up their online reputation before the airing of the SuperBowl ad.   Guess it took writing checks to Ed McMahon and MC Hammer, in addition to writing a check for the famously overpriced SuperBowl airtime for the execs at Cash4Gold to do a quick check to see what 30 million SuperBowl viewers might find if/when they did a Google search for the company.

In the 2nd blog post Cash 4 Gold would like to melt down and recast their reputation, Rob not only shares the emails received from Cash4Gold, he also shares the price they were willing to pay him to remove the posts.  It’s really WELL worth the read.

However, the efforts to buy their way out of this by Cash4Gold execs was too little, too late.  Way back in October, a time when no one would have IMAGINED that the Cardinals would be playing in the big game, the blog the Consumerist had already picked up the story and run How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Cash4Gold. They then ran a follow up post just before the SuperBowl ad aired in Cash4Gold Offers Blogger $3,000 To Remove Negative Post.

The first comment on the 2nd Consumerist post was by Cheesebubble: “suddenly, i hate everything …and i’m gonna blog about it!”

That, my friends, is the way of the new web.

Tom Volkar was venting the other day about being authentic.  He was authentically pissed off and he wrote:

A well-known social media expert recently tweeted something like this. “Don’t share anything here that you wouldn’t put up on billboards all over town.” Even that pissed me off, because he seemed to be saying, “wear the mask – don’t be real – be careful.” Bullshit to that! I wouldn’t pay to express my anger on a billboard but I’ll not run from it either.

Tom doesn’t have to buy a billboard to vent his anger because he’s got a blog, just as Rob Cockerham doesn’t need a billboard to share his experience with Cash4Gold.

Oh- did I  mention that YOUR customers don’t need to buy ad space either to vent THEIR anger?  This is Web 2.0 and the power is quickly shifting to the people.

Got a business?  Got Social Media Strategy?

I would venture to guess that 20 years ago, the Cash4Gold story never would gotten this big.  The question now isn’t will it get big – it’s how big will it get?

One thing is for certain – this is DEFINITELY bad news if your business model is threatened by the growing transparency of the new web.

Any chance you’ll mail your gold to Cash4Gold after reading this?  (Me neither.)

Comments

  1. says

    Seriously, who would mail their gold off to someone pretty much sight unseen anyway? I mean, wouldn’t you take it somewhere in person? Just sayin’. I sold/traded gold and diamonds in exchange for our daughters’ grad presents with our jeweler. He reworked and traded it all into diamond pendants for them. I don’t think I would have trusted the U.S. Mail, much less any recipient I didn’t know. But the lesson is a good one for business people and consumers. Great post, Kathy.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..HERE’S A POTENTIAL APPOINTEE WHO PROBABLY PAYS HIS TAXES

  2. says

    Hi Kathy,
    This is a great example of just how powerful the social part of the Internet can truly be. And why it’s so important to be true and honest in what we do – the “real” us can be easily exposed…

    Lances last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

  3. Kathy says

    Betsy-
    I agree! The whole scenario just falls apart from the get go. From trusting the USPS to deliver the gold to trusting Cash4Gold to provide fair value – this in no way qualifies as a “Best Practice” on any front!

    Notice how you have a “jeweler”. Not like you have possession of him in your basement or anything like that! Rather, this is a professional with whom you’ve established TRUST! That’s why you say, “Why in the world?”

    I used to have a trusted jeweler – and a trusted plumber – and a trusted dentist when we lived in Indiana. We’ve been in Florida for 4 years now and I’m still establishing “trust” with these various professionals.

    All I can say is, I’m sure that anyone who has sent gold to Cash4Gold didn’t have a trusted resource – which makes the story that much sadder!

    Lance –
    I do think this story shows us the power of the social part of the internet. In a way, it’s downright SCARY!

  4. Kathy says

    Betsy – Thanks for the Tweet. I got a similar “tweet” as well. It appears this story is taking on a life of its own.

  5. says

    Fun post! Seems like every year there’s a Superbowl-Ad-Cautionary-Tale, but this one is really interesting.

    Question: If you know there’s “bad press” on the Internet about you, how do you prevent this?

    So maybe in their case they had it coming, but what about genuinely OK companies where there’s some negative stuff here and there. The Internet never forgets, even when probably it should. Perhaps you can’t prevent, but how do you deal with it?

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  6. Kathy says

    Valerie – I’m stealing your comment and making it my email tag line! Just to let you know in advance! 🙂

    Jason,
    I’m an advocate of “the best defense is a good offense”. If you are PROACTIVE, you can build your online reputation (through smart SEO) so when bad press hits – it’s easier to “bury” it in the search results.

    What you DO NOT DO is what the social media “reputation expert” hired by Cash4Godl did – try to bribe a blogger to de-optimized his post. The blogger did what ANY self respecting blogger would do – wrote yet ANOTHER post this time sharing the “attempted bribe” with his audience. The post then went viral and the Cash4Gold online reputation went up in literal FLAMES!!!

    I guess this deserves another blog post!

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