In the hot seat online? Better respond

Articles
October 13, 2009

In the hot seat online? Better respond

Companies can quickly slide into social purgatory, and have their bottom lines burned, if they fail to respond to their critics on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Companies can quickly slide into social purgatory, and have their bottom lines burned, if they fail to respond to their critics on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. 

Left untended, negative commentary can smolder and spread a dislike for a company and its brands. Damage can be costly and require extensive efforts to undo, suggest findings from a RightNow Technology survey that examined how Australian consumers want companies to communicate with them on social media.

Things can get nasty. Brand boycotts were reported by nearly one in four online consumers (23%), prompted by a negative comment they read about how the company treats its customers. Of the boycotters, four in 10 (42%) had been customers of that company.

According to a Wise Marketer account of the study:
•    Nearly one in five (18%) posted on Facebook about a poor customer experience
•    More than one in 10 (11%) joined a Facebook group opposed to the company
•    Many shared negative posts they found about a company
•    Their number one goal was to discourage others from doing business with the company

Yet the majority of survey respondents said companies could turn them from ‘badvocates’ to ‘advocates.” How?
•    60% would welcome a company’s response to a negative comment to resolve the issue
•    66% want the company to contact them after they post a positive comment
•    75% believe their comments deserve corporate attention and response

About 15% of posts relate to retailers—47% positive, 36% negative, the study showed. “This serves as a warning for all organizations…that ignoring the viral nature of the social web can harm both revenue and popularity. Consumers want interaction through these sites, but only when companies take a considered approach,” said Brett Waters, RightNow vice president, Asia Pacific South.

In our view, customers scorned (the prompt of a negative comment) and customers ignored (not responded to) are a losing formula, especially with the use of social media soaring and the inclination of individuals to believe one another’s comments, at least to some degree. So we’re not surprised to see an opportunist in the United States—Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo—looking to give brands an organized way to monitor social media conversations about them.

Squidoo will aggregate the commentary and, for $400 a month, provide space on the page for companies to respond to claims, adulation and complaints, he told Fast Company. “If a crisis hits, your page will be there, ready for you to speak up,” he added. 

We don’t know if companies will prefer to respond in such a centralized way, if they will reply to individual posters, of if they will ignore social media discussions, albeit at some risk to their reputations and performance. The creation of Squidoo, however, suggests that posters could turn favorable if they get some corporate love, and we tend to agree with that.