I don’t think I can even count the number of articles I’ve read about social media/PR disasters, why your company needs a social media presence and strategy, why you need a retina chip to ensure you’re monitoring social media at all times. (Okay I’m exaggerating with the last one – but probably not for long.)
From You Tube videos of snotty Dominos pizza, to a (hilarious) cartoon by a Best Buy employee, to Air Canada’s PR nightmare after damaging to a disabled child’s wheelchair, there is a long list of companies who have been burned by social media.
I’m not going to provide a 10-point list of why your company needs to monitor social media, nor an analysis of the stages of social media development in an organisation. My point is much simpler than that. Your company needs to be present, monitor and respond to social media because there is a growing group of consumers who expect it.
Fifty years ago, most customer complaints likely came by mail. Then came the need for phone support. Then email and live chat. Now social media. Today, companies are no longer responding to private emails/calls/complaints between the company and the consumer. They are responding to very public reviews of performance failures, which are not only heard by the followers of the aggrieved party, but spread out to others, and often quickly picked up by news outlets. Your failures are out there in the open and you need to monitor and respond.
Take myself as an example. I have no intention of bad mouthing companies on Twitter or Facebook for fun. However, I will post honest comments of my frustrations, and likewise where I am pleased with a company’s product or service. For example:
@michelehinojosa: “Staying with AT&T for the iPhone 4 makes me feel equal parts nervous and duped.” (Thu 6/17/10)
@michelehinojosa: “@i4harold I’m a current #iPhone user, switching to #Android in August (because I get terrible service from #ATT!)” (Thu 7/8/10)
@michelehinojosa: “@EndressAnalytic Ahh. Unfortunately I’m a current AT&T (iPhone) customer and wouldn’t touch AT&T again with a 100 foot pole. Hello, Verizon.” (Wed 6/30/10)
@michelehinojosa: “Literally LOL’ed! RT @journik: CEO of AT&T got married recently. The wedding was great but the reception was terrible.” (Thu 6/24/10)
@michelehinojosa: “Trying Toodledo task manager. Website & iPhone app sync, and a 3rd party app syncs with Outlook. So far so good! (@jrushin @rightonbro)” (Mon, 5/24/10) But then … @michelehinojosa: “Until Outlook stopped working … ” (Mon 5/24/10)
@michelehinojosa: “Wait, what happened to Verizon ‘having plenty of stock of Droid X’? Yeah right … http://ow.ly/2fPk7” (Fri, 7/23)
Don’t get me wrong though. I have good things to say too!
@michelehinojosa: “Flying @VirginAmerica. Wi-fi is the bomb!” (Fri, 7/2/10)
@michelehinojosa: “Impressed so far with Verizon 3G internet speed. Web pages loading much faster than on AT&T.” (Sat 7/31/10)
@michelehinojosa: “Long Beach airport is odd, like it’s still the 60’s. And yet … FREE WIFI!” (Wed, 7/21/10)
The above are a few examples only. What you’ll notice is that I say a lot about AT&T, due to very poor experiences I had with them over four years. Yet never once did I receive any comment or contact, much was I was critiqueing them in a very public forum.
Other companies (Long Beach airport, for one!) tweeted me back some kind of response – in the case of Long Beach airport, a very positive one and a thank you for the mention. Some companies (Omniture, for one) even actively have customer service on Twitter attending to client questions and concerns. (For the record, Omniture’s Twitter support is fantastic.)
There is no debate here. Your company needs to be monitoring and responding to social media. Customers like myself expect it. And while I’m sure we are not 100% of your customer base, we are growing quickly.
Would you leave a spill on the floor in your store, and later deal with the ramifications of a customer slip and fall? No. Apply the same approach to social media. It is so easy for your reputation to be damaged, and so much harder to repair than to protect it in the first place.