This may not be as bad as first thought, but HTC should know better than this.
HTC is at the center of a disappointing kerfuffle today surrounding its use of the private "Elevate" enthusiast community to dispel misconceptions about the just-launched HTC U11. But as is so often the case, there's far more to the story than a single slice of a screenshot and lots of jumping to conclusions.
For a company like HTC, its dedicated community of fans are its eyes and ears in the extremely competitive smartphone world. By knowing what these generally knowledgeable fans want in a smartphone, HTC gets seriously valuable feedback on this enthusiast market craves and can make genuine product decisions based on that discussion. Members of HTC Elevate tend to be more knowledgeable about the products and enthusiastic about what they offer, too, and want to advocate for the brand by default. They'll go out of their way to tell people — both friends and complete strangers alike — about the merits of the HTC phones they genuinely enjoy using.
HTC Elevate has been around for a long time, and though it's technically a private group it's not secretive nor shady — far from it. The premise of today's worries is a screenshot showing that HTC is aiming to "mobilize and combat" negative things written or said about the U11, "particularly from those that have never seen the device in person." This is pretty typical stuff for a community to want to accomplish — the only truly questionable part is the call to action that requires proof of your engagement sent back to HTC in order to be in the running for "swag and goodies."
That's ... not a great look. But the context of seeing the full Elevate post (embedded here) gives you a better feeling for what HTC was actually attempting to accomplish. Its goal, in plain writing, was to fight against negative comments from "those that haven't spent time with the phone" — but that "constructive criticism is welcome" (hey, they even bolded that part).
While HTC's intentions may be pure, the outcome of such a stern directive for the community can only go sour eventually. There's no doubt that tasking your community to fight against blatantly false or irresponsible reporting about a device is a good goal. The issue is that by providing the incentive of "goodies" in return and requiring documentation of the volume of outreach you do, you create a situation in which generally respected and well-researched opinions and constructive criticism of the U11 are also subjected to the same sort of amazing flood of negative comments.
While its intentions may be pure, the outcome of such a stern directive can only go sour eventually.
Our own coverage of the HTC U11, though generally and genuinely quite positive, has been met with what seem to be this crowd of dedicated followers intent on nitpicking at every single point that could be construed as negative. Despite my review ending with, "The U11 has everything it needs to be a challenger to the top crop of phones in the market today." I still faced an amazing volume of comments intent on discrediting my opinion. And Android Central is hardly an exception — speaking with my media colleagues, this seems to be the case across various websites and platforms that have written about the phone.
Though it really shouldn't be overstated how much this type of community engagement actually hurts the launch of the U11, it's hard to say it had a net positive effect. Having a loyal and dedicated base of fans who are happy to promote your products genuinely is worth so much more than an expensive TV commercial running in prime time — but when you push things too far, you can hit a situation in which your "combat" mentality garners the wrong kind of response.
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