This blog post may have a dark and depressing title. Social Media isn’t something that can be ignored but, if you’re doing it and not doing it right then there will be consequences.
Anyone who has been reading the papers over the last few months will have noticed a massive public outcry over the treatment of passengers in US Airlines.
One Doctor lost two teeth thanks to the authorities when they ‘requested’ he leave the plane.
Another Man who paid for a seat for his elder child to fly (who didn’t come) gave the seat to his younger child. The airline wanted that seat for another passenger and then to cut a long story short threatened him and his wife with jail and that his kids would be put into care.
Now sorry… apart from this is the worst customer service that you could possibly ever see. Airlines, Retailers, Police remember that social media is not just for companies. People have mobile phones. People will record stuff. People will tweet about stuff – people will take photos.
Things like this can go viral very quickly and if you don’t know the term “exponetial” then I suggest you look it up – actually wait here is the definition:
If you one person shares something then this could be to over 1,000 people. Those 1,000 people may have 1,000 of their own – EACH! so that is 1,000,000 people and again … 1,000,000,000. Yes that is a BILLION people who could potentially read this. Now obviously that is an extreme example.
However, what is not an extreme example is that some of these experiences get picked up by celebrities, news agencies, politicians and they share it and suddenly you’ve gone from a seemingly mild-mannered altercation to a “holy shit” moment.
When the White House press secretary is talking about seeing the video of the Doctor on United Airlines being carried off the plane bloodied. Then confirming the President of the United States has seen it.
Surely the brand and PR people at United Airlines were just looking for the nearest cliff to jump off.
Such a reaction isn’t likely to go well with shareholders either. United Airlines lost over $1 billion off their market capitalisation. The CEO kept his job but, wow it took some effort and I gotta say the video of him apologising was very good.
Could such brand damage destroy a company? Well yeah it could – governments have already done the “too big to fail” thing with the banks but, I doubt that they would look at bailing out every company in the country. Especially if something as negative as the examples given happened.
Even if you were best friends with a politician and your company was responsible for ‘something similar’ I would imagine that your phone calls to said politician would take a little longer to be returned (if ever)!
Social media is a customer service channel just as much (maybe more so depending on your sector) as a marketing channel. You need to listen to what your customers are saying and if someone leaves a negative comment then don’t ignore it .. deal with it. Learn from it.
It could be that your product has an unknown fault which wasn’t caught by quality teams. It could be that someone in your company isn’t addressing someone else’s legitimate concerns.
Whether you think their opinion is wrong, whether their issue is valid or not. They are talking about your brand and you need to handle it appropriately. Imagine that you’ve got an irate customer in your shop. Would you ignore them? No.
I recently had a friend who had a problem with an airline. I tweeted about the issue and copied in the CEO and the airline’s main competitor. It seemed bitchy but, I wanted to solve the issue. So now not only does customer service know, so does the CEO and so does their competitor.
Now if the competitor was “listening” then this was a great PR opportunity to ‘steal’ a customer and solve my friend’s problem. They weren’t – hardly surprised.
What did happen was the CEO’s office got in touch and promised to resolve the situation. Chalk one up to the power of social media.
Think thought, what would have happened if the competitor picked up the ‘dropped ball’?