In the MCDM program, we study many positive examples of digital media. Now I would like to share information about the shutdown of Cyworld, a negative example of brand management and customer service in social media.
As the largest social networking site in South Korea, Cyworld started reaching an overseas market in 2006. Local offices were launched in the U.S., Taiwan, Japan and China. However, Cyworld’s big dream of globalization crashed in 2008. Most local offices were closed, but those services were still maintained by Cyworld headquarters in South Korea. Then in early November this year, an announcement of the closure of the Cyworld U.S. service was posted on its U.S. website and mailed to its American members. The content was poorly written and full of grammatical errors, as reported by TechCrunch. The same embarrassing thing also happened with the closure notice for Cyworld Taiwan: inappropriate phrases, grammar errors and bad layout. For loyal Cyworld users, the shutdown notices were rough and thoughtless.
What have I learned from Cyworld? First, the closing should not have happened. Chris Anderson’s book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, states that technical costs such as storage and bandwidth are approaching zero, which makes web services become free. Cyworld isn’t disappearing completely; the South Korea and China sites are stable enough. The removal of diaries, photos and other data was frustrating for users of Cyworld sites that were shut down. They should have been provided with an appropriate tool to copy all of their data.
Secondly, Cyworld failed to do customer service. The poorly written shutdown notices are one example. The notice should guide users to the Korean service since their local service will not be available. Many users register for Cyworld because of their interest in Korean pop culture. One of the reasons that Cyworld failed in most of their overseas markets is that the local service couldn’t connect to the Cyworld Korean service, leading to user disappointment. If Cyworld supported multi-language services, it won’t lose so many members globally.
The Cyworld U.S. shutdown notice does not only show the loss of Cyworld’s international markets; it also displays bad branding and marketing. Having strong branding and marketing is especially important to companies in the digital age.