Community Management, Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Strategy, Social CRM, Social Media Monitoring

Take Off the Social Media Blindfold

Among the many exceptionally interesting data snacks in the recent MarketingProfs’ State of Social Media report is one showing that businesses of all sizes and types are primarily using Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, and blogging.

And while it’s on one hand a positive that we’re stating to see some norms and best practices emerge within social media, it’s a tremendous mistake to restrict your social media activities to just the “Big Five.”

There are literally hundreds of other places your customers could be talking about your brand within the social Web, and it’s imperative that you hear all of them. If a subset (even a small one) of your customer base loves Tripadvisor, or Yelp, or FriendFeed, or their Ning group or whatever, that does not make them less important to your brand’s perception than people on Twitter or Facebook, it just makes them a different segment of your audience.

Remember, there is a REASON they spend their time within the social ecosystem on Yelp and not Facebook – because that’s the community they PREFER. And in fact, people that make choices that are less conventional tend to defend those choices more passionately than the “me too” crowd. And, because there are fewer total users, the opinions of any individual are magnified.

Further, regardless of where the content is posted, it will be found and indexed by search engines, becoming part of your brand’s permanent record, like that crappy tattoo of a hummingbird you got in Cancun.

Dear Marriott: Pay Attention

Consider this horrifying example for Marriott. I did a quick check of Google Sidewiki (a plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer that lets you comment on Web pages, and those comments are “stuck” the Web page like a Post-It note). I found this solitary post, ripping Marriott for not removing this guy from their email newsletter list. I’m not sure what’s worse, the company not paying attention to secondary and tertiary layers of the social Web and thus not finding this, or knowing about it and not leaving a reply. Either way, their silence is deafening.

Do millions of people use Sidewiki? Not yet, but since it’s a Google project, there’s a fair chance it will take off. And for the people that are already using Sidewiki, doesn’t this impact how you perceive Marriott? And now I’ve shared it with all of you, so a comment on a “minor” social outpost continues to fester, unabated.

I realize it’s a hassle to monitor your brand across all of these places. It takes time. Time you probably don’t have. But you know how municipal police forces crush graffiti problems? They paint over it immediately, wherever it occurs. It’s a lesson that applies equally in social media.

The days of “if we answer back, it just gives them credence” are over. Take off the blinders, remove the earplugs, and defend yourself.

(disclaimer: MarketingProfs is a Convince & Convert client. You might want to read another post that references their data: Crushing the Myth of B2B Social Media)

(for more on Google Sidewiki, read this excellent post by Jeremiah Owyang)

Facebook Comments


  1. ericboggs says

    I go back and forth on this issue. Is it better to swoop in to resolve every single negative comment and risk enabling the complaining masses and spreading yourself thin? Or is it better to focus on the primary channels and shaping the big picture?

    Probably the former, though the latter approach has its merits. Whiny comments such as this don't carry much influence – note the two votes for “no – this comment was not useful”.

    Either way, I'm sure (or at least I hope) that Marriot has read the comment and taken a look at their unsubscribe process. “Defending” themselves would be a mistake. Offering a phone call or free night's stay or apologizing doesn't seem right, either. I think I would post a “thank you” for the feedback, leave my Twitter handle, and say “we're looking into it” if and only if I were actually looking into it.

    Big, slow companies still have a ways to go for sure…

  2. says

    Jay, I agree with what you are saying, but I have to disagree with how you are saying it. I completely agree that businesses should be a listening as far and frequently as possible. But the bottom line is that connecting with customers through social media requires significantly more time and personnel resources than traditional media. Most businesses haven't yet realigned their budgets and philosophies to reflect the increasing importance of social media. So, they are forced to pick and choose the most active and influential platforms. If businesses really are blindfolded then, yes, this post speaks to them, but I think it's more an issue of scarce resources.

  3. says

    Reality is that companies or individuals who have plans to be active on all social media sites should be ready for one hell of a task. I am of the opinion that it is smarter to focus on a few rather than be in all and make no difference.

  4. karimacatherine says

    Hi Jay

    Yet again a very well written post!

    I agree with what you are saying and as social media advisors, we have been trying to get across this message to the businesses across the world; We have had notable examples of the bad press that did occur subsequent to ignoring social media monitoring and you are adding another one.
    What I have found out is that companies are just starting to figure out social media and how to make the most of it; they, sometimes, don't even know how to hire someone that could take care of it. They might have the motivation, the drive, the budget and the budget but lack the knowledge.

    Your example is scary enough that Marriott, I am sure, will take notice and hopefully, more companies will, in time, do the same.


  5. karimacatherine says

    Hi Jay

    Yet again a very well written post!

    I agree with what you are saying and as social media advisors, we have been trying to get across this message to the businesses across the world; We have had notable examples of the bad press that did occur subsequent to ignoring social media monitoring and you are adding another one.
    What I have found out is that companies are just starting to figure out social media and how to make the most of it; they, sometimes, don't even know how to hire someone that could take care of it. They might have the motivation, the drive, the budget and the budget but lack the knowledge.

    Your example is scary enough that Marriott, I am sure, will take notice and hopefully, more companies will, in time, do the same.


  6. says

    Good point Eric. Perhaps “defend yourself” was a bit much, rhetorically. I don't expect Marriott to cater to this guy. But, a simple reply via Sidewiki that they heard the complaint and are addressing it would suffice. You wouldn't let your 1-800 number ring without answering it, right?

    • says

      The breakdown in the analogy to the 1-800 number? That you can’t hear it ring unless you go look under the sofa cushions IN CASE there’s a phone there. Then look in the dining room. In a birdhouse on a tree in your back yard. Behind the toilet. And you’ve only just begun.

      The major failing of Sidewiki I see (having just started looking at it a few days ago & trying to learn more) is that I don’t have a way–as the manager of an entire web site–to sign up and get a Google Alert when someone posts something. We have hundreds and hundreds of web pages and it is simply not feasible to look at every one, every day, in case someone posted a comment.

      If there’s a utility that lets me get notified, PLEASE TELL ME. I’ve seen this same question elsewhere.

      Other social media spaces that I have to enter have the same barrier. I’m working to find out where people might be talking about us, but will really have to rely on fans/defenders who are already there to come tell us where we need to engage.

      I don’t see any other way to find the niche spots. This means educating folks to let us know that we do care–we just need to know which birdhouse or sofa cushion to look at. Being accessible and visible in the major spaces shows that we want to listen and engage, so it’s a reasonable first step.

      Director of Communications and Public Affairs
      Washington State University Spokane

  7. says

    I concur that social media and social monitoring require time, as I mention in the post. But, how can you afford to NOT pay attention across-the-board? If someone has a complaint, you would answer your telephone, and you would answer an email. But for some reason because the complaint is via Sidewiki, it's invalid, and the company can ignore the customer? Nope. That's not the way the wind is blowing.

  8. tillypick says

    I agree with your feelings about not just looking at the “Big 5”. Lots of merit in that.

    Re: your Marriott post, let me relay this brief story, primarily because I worry that we're heading towards overload and paralysis at our own peril. For the record, I am not saying you don't have a point. What I am saying is that just because we can see and understand every little problem and issue in the world, doesn't mean we can and should try to solve them one at a time, and our expectations of each other shouldn't be that we should.

    Our small town in the Northeast is having budget issues like any other. The cost to run the school district is up 10% but there's no money, so we're forced to make cuts. Our school committee is responsible for figuring that out, and I feel for them. Why? Because we have many well-intending parents wanting their voices to be heard and wanting to contribute to the solution. Would you like to be on that school committee? I bet they would be a lot more effective in solving the big problems for the benefit of all if they didn't have to listen and reciprocate with each and every parent that has an issue and wants to be heard. Imagine how much time and energy they'd have to expend. Yes, part of it is needed and we have a process for that, but there is a limit. Otherwise we become a town that has lots of meetings where people can feel good about expressing their opinions and schools that don't educate our kids.

    Translate that to the business world. We, the people, need to exercise a little bit of restraint and, dare I say, civic responsibility about what are issues and complaints we send around the world. The internet is a great enabler of democracy and transparency. But, like most things, we do need to use it responsibly. Perpetuating little shit does not feel very responsible to me.

  9. says

    Absolutely fantastic comment. Thank you very much.

    As I've said in other comments, I believe companies have to realize that consumers are using social media as a complaint venue. Companies need to “answer the social phone” (to quote Radian6) if they are going to meet customer expectations.

    However, you are 100% right that customers can very easily abuse this situation. Just because Marriott didn't take you off their email list probably doesn't give you the right to trash their brand in a public forum. The difference between customer service 1.0 (phone, email) and customer service 2.0 (twitter, sidewiki, yelp) is the very public nature of the new paradigm. This tilts the balance of power very much toward the customer, in a way that can be quite unfair to the company.

    Thus, I agree completely that as consumers we need to make sure the “punishment” fits the crime before we blast brands via social media. As marketers, I fear that too few consumers will indeed exercise that restraint.

    I wrote a post about this consumer abuse of power a while back called “A Social Media Gun to the Head”

    Perhaps readers/commenters on this post would enjoy it:

    (or just search “gun” in the search box above)

  10. tillypick says

    Thanks for responding.

    I checked out your other blog and appreciate it. Of all the people talking out there about social media (that I have observed, anyway), you seem to be the most level-headed. Just like there is good and bad advertising, there's good and bad social media. Because we're arguably in the infancy of social media (though much of the underpinnings of social media have been around forever, just not on the internet), it seems like anything social media today is deemed great, right and something everyone should do. We're still learning.

    Keep up the good work and us on the right track, Jay.


  11. says

    Jay –

    “Either way, their silence is deafening.” Love it.

    As with Eric Boggs, I also and back and forth on this. (“Disclaimer” – Eric is a good buddy of mine. I worked with him for years while at Bronto). I still struggle with answering EVERYTHING. I think the next evolution of this is having your community respond for you. I'm starting to see that more and more. If you can grown your community into rabid fans who will not only evangelize for you and help with marketing, but they will also come to your defense. That's the bees knees, right?

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  12. ericboggs says

    …or just paying college students $10/hour to find negative complaints and offset them with positive endorsements.

  13. stefanarnold says

    I think that is the real key. Most companies are just getting started. They need to be proactive with FB and Twitter and , as Jay said, monitor the situation on others.

    If you had to pick one or two beside FB or Twitter, which would you suggest.


  14. says

    Thanks for the great post Jay. As always, very informative. Love the Google Sidewiki story. Its amazing that I am still trying to convince clients that they cannot ignore or control social media and what people are saying about their brand online. So many still feel like they shouldn’t ‘open that can’ because it will mean ‘people are going to talk negatively about you’. They already are!! You cannot stop them! BUT at least you can be part of the conversation!
    Thanks again Jay –
    Lucinda Callie

  15. says


    I've had that discussion before about paying college students or an intern to manage this stuff. I'm all for them helping to triage, but this gig is not a $10/hr job, IMHO.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  16. says

    Nice article. When it comes to social media there is a cultural and corporate shift that is taking place in the world. The corporate world started to push past awareness and into action. As this transition takes hold, companies are evolving from their reactive states, and moving toward more proactive approaches in protecting themselves in social media through proper advice and training and development. Social media has begun to play a key role in how companies shape their corporate policies and present themselves as good corporate citizens starting from the top of the pyramid.

  17. says

    In an ideal situation, focusing on all areas where your consumers are talking about your brand would be great! Although, even for social media managers or consultants managing social media full time, it is difficult to focus on so many areas – to do that, you would really need a team of 5 or 6 people just spending time all day scanning the internet. Then you would need some more people to handle the engagement and analytics – which can get expensive. It's just better to focus your time on the most popular social media networks where the majority of your consumers are. Even in traditional marketing, it's impossible to reach all of your customers – it's the same in social media.

  18. says

    Eric, I tend to disagree with you regarding how any company should handle negative comments. The issues should always be addressed, explained and, if appropriate, resolved by the company in order to prove their integrity. Your simple reply of “thank you, we are looking into it” is not a solution. The problem should be explained in detail, including the resolution; and then, the comment needs to be buried in the search engines by the company getting positive information out there. Just my 2-cents.

  19. says

    There's certainly a lot of that going around. Travel/tourism especially is prone to review stuffing, either false positives, or false negatives against competitors. I'm very interested to see how the new Yelp version and FourSquare and Gowalla help fix that. You'll be able to tell if the reviewer has actually visited the location, how frequently, and how recently. Viva GPS.

  20. says

    Totally depends on your audience. If you were localized biz, I'd guess Yelp. If you were B2B, I'd say Linkedin. If you were travel, I'd say TripAdvisor. If you listen broadly enough, you should be able to find the right places where you're being discussed.

  21. says

    Thanks so much for the fantastic comment, Barb. Really smart thinking. I am not sure on this, but I believe that Radian6 (and perhaps other software) is monitoring Sidewiki content. But, I'm not positive. You would certainly think that Google Alerts would catch it, since it's a Google product, but perhaps not. In that regard, maybe Sidewiki is a bad example. Maybe TripAdvisor or Yelp fits the social phone analogy better, since that content is indexed, RSS-able, etc.

  22. says

    Bingo. People have been talking shit about your company since you opened the doors. Social media is an opportunity to now put a magnifying glass on some of that, whereas previously you never would have known about it. Social media doesn't create problems with your brand, it finds them.

  23. says

    Absolutely. The other benefit is that social media puts marketing and customer service on the same team, and that's a long-term corporate advantage, in my estimation.

  24. ericboggs says

    We actually agree for the most part, Janet. Just note that I specified that replies should include “we're looking into it” if and only if the company is actually looking into it.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't necessarily agree that every single complaint deserves a detailed explanation of the problem, nor the promise of a resolution. This guy just seems like a whiner with an axe to grind…and obviously doesn't know how to block a sender in his email client. Might be a different story if there were 3 other people that responded to him in agreement…

    Other than “Thank you for your feedback – ping me via @whatever on Twitter if you'd like to discuss.”, what can Marriot say to appease him? Will the agent that responds have any influence over the email marketing process? Probably not. More likely that they'll pass along the complaint to someone else, which precludes a detailed explanation/resolution. (I'm not saying that this is the ideal process, by the way. Just the reality.)

    Seems to me that social media damage control should be about more than just squishing ants.

  25. says

    Someone must have appeased him offline, because the Sidewiki post is gone, and I don't think you can unilaterally delete them unless you are the author. Hmmm.

  26. says

    Hi Barb and Jay,

    Jay – you are right, Radian6 can track sidewiki content for your web properties (or any web sites you care to track sidewiki content).

    Barb – that is what we do… our software constantly monitors all the niche places (and popular places too) to bring all the conversations that you care about into your “1-800” number, to use the analogy. This way you can spend your time in analysis and engagement/conversation rather than worry about looking under every sofa cushion… and there are many.

    Marcel LeBrun
    CEO, Radian6

    PS – Jay… love the comment: “The days of 'if we answer back, it just gives them credence' are over.” Amen!

  27. says

    Jay -while I couldn't agree with you more we have to get people up and running first. Most of my clients are traditional manufacturers and are scared to death of anything associated with social. Once we get them up and running on the basics( your top 5) we can then start them utilizing the other tools available. As usual good stuff

  28. Joel says

    What is the ROI on spending time on the one-percent? I’d prefer to cover 90% of the audience excellently rather that 98% ‘averagely’.

  29. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *