I was surprised by a recent survey reported that nearly 50 percent of brands don’t pull the ostrich act, or the tough-guy act either, when being bashed by consumers on a social media website.
One would think the primal “fight or flight” instinct would kick in, especially for any large bureaucracy on the defensive. But according to the social media and online PR report, conducted by “eonsultancy” and reported by the “Emarketer“, the world of commerce has apparently evolved.
It may have taken awhile, but big brands finally get the point of social media. They recognize it’s not just a cheap and easy way to promote a product or service, but in fact a fantastic vehicle in which to engage in a two-way dialogue with customers.
Most enlightened businesses also realize the futility of fighting back or—bad move!—trying to have a negative item blocked. This actually occurred recently, when a certain juice manufacturer tried to tangle with the blogster Lazy Man and Money by issuing a “cease and desist order” to have its brand name stricken from the popular blog’s list of meta-tags. That, of course, provoked an even more withering follow-up blog that cast the juice manufacturer, as well as its tactics,in a most unfavorable light. All of this probably made quite an impression on the 3,600 people who commented on Lazy Man’s first blog post and thousands more who heard about the legal action.
But as the recent social media report indicates, most brands have grown more sophisticated than that. Some 47 percent of survey respondents said they try to resolve a problem directly with a customer or customers, and 33 percent work proactively to improve their product or service — viewing consumer postings as positive feedback. Another 24 percent try to coax positive comments from other posters, while 17 percent (missing a greater opportunity) respond via press releases. The remainder use various tactics to block unfavorable posts or do nothing at all.
However, as the survey reveals, the great majority of brands do see social media as a valuable way to engage in a real, meaningful conversation with customers. As I have been telling my clients for some time, online sites provide tremendous opportunities to preview consumer sentiment regarding a new product – or to note reasons for boredom with a longtime staple. From these two-way conversations, good will – and sometimes better product ideas – often spring.
And that – as a certain household-goods maven who has weathered her fair share of controversy might say – is a pretty good thing.