On social media, a hoax resurges

By Alex Veeneman on June 27, 2012

A Starbucks at Tower Bridge in London.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user peskymesky)

For the modern business, social media, in all its fascinating and encompassing forms, is a unique way of connecting and engaging with consumers. However, social media, in this form, can present myths that can potentially harm reputations.

This week, there has been a notable example, in the case of Starbucks. Users had posted a letter on their Facebook page saying that the coffee company had not supported the US military and the war in Iraq. This point had been made before–the letter in question came from 2004, from a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. Shortly after its publication, it was proven to be a hoax.

Users criticized Starbucks for the move as the letter again became public, writing on the company’s Facebook wall that they would take their business elsewhere. That, however is not the case. Starbucks has supported the military in the US and in other countries which they operate, and in response to individual users, posted a statement on their web site on the subject.

“When Starbucks learned of the original email, we immediately contacted the author, a Marine Sergeant, who subsequently sent an e-mail to his original distribution list correcting the mistake,” reads the statement. “Unfortunately, rumors have a way of continuing even after the truth has been revealed.”

Starbucks added that through a partnership program with the Red Cross and the USO, VIA Ready Brew products had been in care packages sent by the company and by family and friends. “We have worked hard to put this rumor to rest, so that it no longer distracts from the many outstanding demonstrations our partners have made, on their own and together, to support the troops,” the statement reads.

Starbucks did not respond to a phone call request seeking comment for this article. The Marine Sergeant has since apologized for the incident.

This provides a lesson in social media and a small reminder of what the internet can do, even when something like this is known long ago to have been confirmed as a myth.

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