By now you have probably heard the tragic news that British pop star Amy Winehouse has passed away. She was found in her London home on Saturday afternoon by one of her security guards, and before long the social world exploded with tweets, updates, and posts regarding her death. This, along with many others, is a prime example of how social media has become intertwined with every part of our lives. Every tweet, every post, and every status has a purpose and an objective trying to convey some kind of information or get the reader to do something. Unfortunately in this scenario, too many were using social media and the Internet to try and profit off such an awful event.
Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify and several other companies almost immediately released tweets and banner graphics about Amy Winehouse’s death. Most of them were sympathetic towards the tragedy, but they also slid in ways to profit. Microsoft, for example, tweeted “Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune.” While presenting it as a way to remember the Grammy winning artist, what they really wanted was for people to go buy more of her albums from their Zune music store. Apple did the same thing by creating a banner to put on the rotating banner display in the iTunes music store. The banner simply reads “Remembering Amy Winehouse,” but when clicked it takes you straight to a page where you can buy her music. At the time of this writing, Amy Winehouse takes up nearly half of the spots on the iTunes top ten albums list.
While it’s important for companies to acknowledge events such as this, at what point do they go too far? Why must they connect their products when showing sympathy to the family and millions of fans? A good social media campaign brings a large company down to an individual level. It makes the company almost feel human-like in that it creates an emotional and personal relationship with each and every customer they connect with. Exploiting somebody’s death, whether it’s a celebrity or Joe Schmo, is the least human-like thing anyone can do. If a company is going to make a statement regarding a death, they should do it in a simple and respectful manner that in no way entices followers to buy something. Several hours after their first tweet, the same Microsoft account as before tweeted, “With Amy W’s passing, the world has lost a huge talent. Our thoughts are with Amy’s family and friends at this very sad time.” This should have been their first, and only, tweet on the situation.
I suppose you could argue that the remarks and links to Amy Winehouse’s music were genuine; people obviously want to listen to her work now that she’s gone. But her truest fans have already bought her songs and albums. The ones who are buying them now are simply falling into the traps that Apple, Microsoft, and others created. Non-fans of Amy Winehouse are seeing and hearing constant news stories regarding her, so they decide to check out her music to see if it’s any good. Music stores know this, so they make sure getting to her music is as easy as clicking a link disguised as a sympathetic gesture.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but this isn’t the first time something like this has come up. Companies constantly ride the “top story” wave to get products out there, which there is usually nothing wrong with. If it’s relevant, why not take advantage of what the world is talking about? It’s when it becomes something tragic or personal that it becomes a problem, and that is exactly what happened in the case of Amy Winehouse’s death.