Despite the overwhelming evidence of the impact of Social Media on the perceived public image of a business, many Customer Service (CS) and Public Relations (PR) executives still handle negative Social Media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, etc.) by ignoring the bad publicity. One can only marvel at the rationale of an executive team in the 21st century, which believes that avoidance behavior of PR problems in the Social Media environment is the best policy.
I would suggest that there are four reasons for this philosophy, which are as follows:
- An outmoded understanding and/or denial of Social Media and its long-term impact on the company’s public image.
- A belief that negative statements in the Social Media have no cumulative effect and that they will disappear over time.
- An arrogance by the executives of a corporation that they control their public image by what they say and do and by the money they spend on advertising, not by what individuals outside the company say about them.
- A belief that by giving attention to someone with a complaint about their company will cause more problems and possibly force the company to admit to their stupidity.
- A negative Social Media comment is forever. It doesn’t fade and it doesn’t go away.
- A negative blog can and will be found by any Google search of your company. Why would a CS or PR executive let people who search for their company be exposed to everything said by the people who hate you?
- Bad comments on Social Media are cumulative. When someone is mad at your company they will search to find other people who feel the same way, and then you have a movement of people who are united against your company.
- Waiting to address bad publicity only makes a company look like they are hiding something when they finally do publicly address the issue, which is a lose, lose, loser in damage control.
- Once a company wakes up and realizes that ignoring bad PR is a stupid idea, how long will the implementor of that policy have before the company seeks someone who is smarter about handling negative Social Media?
A negative Social Media comment about a company is an opportunity. Everyone knows that major corporations are monitoring the Social Media, so when someone makes a negative comment they know that someone in the company is reading it. A company that contacts the author of the complaint to show concern will, at the very least, prove that the company appreciates its customers. By, 1) addressing the reason for the complaint and, 2) making some tangible effort to offer a reward to the person for bringing the issue to the company’s attention, the complainer will likely become a positive voice for the company’s public image and may even delete the negative blog or comment.
Companies, and their executives, who fail to address negative Social Media comments are risking their future. Netflix and United Airlines are just two examples of corporations that have done too little too late to address public image issues in the Social Media and they are paying the price. How many companies have to become a joke to their customers, investors, and the public before they realize the mistake they are making by ignoring Social Media?