Community Management, Social Media Strategy

Presto! How Social Media Makes Bad News Good

In corporate conference rooms, a major complaint about social media is that it forces companies to get involved with dissatisfied customers in a public forum.

The historic imperative has been to ignore complaints publicly, and deal with them privately via form letters and an occasional telephone call from a customer service representative.

The rule of thumb has been that you never engage directly with a brand critic, because it adds credibility and weight to their arguments if the company acknowledges them.

how social media makes bad news good 213x300 Presto! How Social Media Makes Bad News GoodIf You Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand, You’ll Never Get Any in Your Eyes

This ostrich tactic is absolutely the wrong way to handle criticism in a wired world. Ignoring the problem just makes it worse, as citizen bloggers will ramp up the outrage if their concerns aren’t addressed.

Instead of looking at social media as being forced to “handle” a “negative”, brands should view it as an opportunity to improve, grow and thrive. It’s the ultimate canary in the coal mine. If your company has legitimate problems with its operations (and most customer complaints have at least a kernel (and usually a cob) of truth), social media is the greatest opportunity of all time.

By listening, you not only learn what those problems are (with no focus group expense, by the way) but by responding to issues authentically and sympathetically (Zappos, Dell, Comcast et al), you can actually gain more customers than are lost because of the original problem.

And this isn’t just a big company scenario. If you run a restaurant and your weekday lunch-time chef is much worse than your weekend dinner-time chef, it’s entirely possible that a blogger or podcaster (like me via Hottie & The Fatso) will complain about it eventually. As a restaurant owner, wouldn’t you want to know that? You not only learn a critical piece of information about your own organization, but it gives you the chance to set your restaurant apart. A simple blog comment like this would do the trick:

“Wow. Really interesting to hear your perspective on our lunch vs. dinner quality differences. We of course strive for consistently great experiences at all times, and I’ll be auditing our lunch and dinner service immediately to get us back on track. Many thanks for your observation. We hope you’ll join us again for lunch soon and give us another chance.”

It’s about listening to your customers and humanizing your company. And once you commit to it, every piece of “bad news” you discover through social media gives you a chance to make it good. 

  • http://www.bizcoachdeb.com/blog Deb Kolaras

    Great post and really hammers home the idea that customers are no longer at arm’s length – they are right in front of us, waiting for us to fix things promptly, without smoke and mirrors.

  • http://www.bizcoachdeb.com/blog Deb Kolaras

    Great post and really hammers home the idea that customers are no longer at arm’s length – they are right in front of us, waiting for us to fix things promptly, without smoke and mirrors.

  • http://altitudebranding.com/ Amber Naslund

    Jason,

    Great post! The trick, of course, is for companies to realize the conversation is happening, with or without them. The negative stuff is going to get put out there, as perfection is impossible. But I for one would rather have it front and center where I can acknowledge it, understand it, and choose the proper path of resolution – whatever that may be.

    Thanks for keeping us grounded, and reminding us that the bad news can be about education, not just criticism.

    Amber

  • http://altitudebranding.com Amber Naslund

    Jason,

    Great post! The trick, of course, is for companies to realize the conversation is happening, with or without them. The negative stuff is going to get put out there, as perfection is impossible. But I for one would rather have it front and center where I can acknowledge it, understand it, and choose the proper path of resolution – whatever that may be.

    Thanks for keeping us grounded, and reminding us that the bad news can be about education, not just criticism.

    Amber

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  • http://connectsimply.com/blog Heidi Caswell

    I believe in today’s economy it is even more important to get your head out of the sand and hold conversations with your customers, especially those who see something that can be improved.

    Heidi Caswell’s last blog post..Signs of Hope for 2009

  • http://connectsimply.com/blog Heidi Caswell

    I believe in today’s economy it is even more important to get your head out of the sand and hold conversations with your customers, especially those who see something that can be improved.

    Heidi Caswell’s last blog post..Signs of Hope for 2009

  • http://twitter.com/heidi_caswell/status/1093511315 Heidi_Caswell

    Reading How Social Media makes bad news good http://snipr.com/9ernd all businesses should pay attention

  • http://twitter.com/CharityHisle @CharityHisle

    Great post on Social Media and customer interraction. Social Media can also benefit a company using employee feedback and interrraction. Often, employers are suprised by the abilities of their employees.

    Here’s an example: Usually my boss participated in every conference call I scheduled with clients (3.5 years). One day, he couldn’t talk, only listen because the background noise was too loud on his end. I handled the call alone, representing the company with my own ideas and personality. After that conference, he called me up to say how impressed he was with the way I handled the situation. Since then, he’s been more trusting of how I represent his business.

    Social Media will allow employees to shine, connect as individuals with customers to achieve the common goals of the company. Connecting with your employees is just as important as connecting with your customers, and they can suprise you with their unique personalities and perspectives. You may find a gold mine of ideas simply by including employees in your Social Media initiative.

    @CharityHisle’s last blog post..CharityHisle: This is the one time I am grateful for the multitude of usernames and passwords I’ve collected in my applications.

  • http://twitter.com/CharityHisle @CharityHisle

    Great post on Social Media and customer interraction. Social Media can also benefit a company using employee feedback and interrraction. Often, employers are suprised by the abilities of their employees.

    Here’s an example: Usually my boss participated in every conference call I scheduled with clients (3.5 years). One day, he couldn’t talk, only listen because the background noise was too loud on his end. I handled the call alone, representing the company with my own ideas and personality. After that conference, he called me up to say how impressed he was with the way I handled the situation. Since then, he’s been more trusting of how I represent his business.

    Social Media will allow employees to shine, connect as individuals with customers to achieve the common goals of the company. Connecting with your employees is just as important as connecting with your customers, and they can suprise you with their unique personalities and perspectives. You may find a gold mine of ideas simply by including employees in your Social Media initiative.

    @CharityHisle’s last blog post..CharityHisle: This is the one time I am grateful for the multitude of usernames and passwords I’ve collected in my applications.

  • letstalkandchat

    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: http://www.mikelmurphy.com/easy-info-product-site-system/