Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Social Media is a double-edged sword. Brands and organizations, big and small, have a direct channel to interact with their stakeholders, as well as serve as an important customer service function. On the other hand, stakeholders or activists with an axe to grind have an electronic soapbox to share and amplify their experiences, good or bad, with the world.


For resource-strapped associations and not-for-profits the strategic value of communicating directly diverse stakeholders couldn’t be more obvious. Preparing for a two-way dialogue with your members means planning for and spotting issues as they emerge and thus mostly avoiding escalation to a crisis. What starts out as one negative comment can turn into a major crisis that damages to your reputation.


Right now about 3.6 billion people have access to the internet and over a billion people use Facebook. The opportunities and threats for brands on social media abound. My focus here isn’t about why social media is important, but how to manage the time when a customer has a bad experience - what you can do to quickly and effectively stymie any adverse effects on your brand.


Social media is listening and caring. The best brands on social care about their customers' concerns. Just look at @DellCares. Dell is doing a brilliant job listening and responding to their customers' needs with a dedicated tone and persona focused on helping customers get the answers they need.


"Wait, I'm not a large brand but an not-for-profit association with a thousand members."


The principles of listening, caring and then responding that Dell employs are true to any organization. The way you manage your social media brand is going to function differently.


Bad experience? Get it offline…asap. A public spat can ruin any credibility your brand has earned almost instantaneously. Respond directly and get the customer offline or onto email to discuss and solve their issue before it becomes a crisis. Issues are okay, crises are hard to come back from and can destroy brands. A children's consignment store in Toronto once took to social media to "tell its side of the story" as well as going on talk radio to further inflame the situation by calling their customer a liar. It doesn't take a genius to know that a defensive approach is akin to pouring gasoline on a fire.


Speed, speed, speed. "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." No matter who you attribute this quote to, a fabrication is usually more salacious than the truth. Part of your social media strategy should include ongoing monitoring and a system for escalating issues to resolve them quickly. In the event an internal decision-maker isn't available at that second, have a plan and process for how to connect with a disgruntled customer to communicate how and when you will help them resolve his or her problem. Customers mostly want to know someone is helping them. Simple updates make a world of a difference.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Give your customers the benefit of the doubt while being firm about what you can and cannot change. The truth is the customer IS NOT always right, but never deserves to be treated so. Customer service is fundamentally about respect and empathy for the consumer experience. Maybe she's spilled coffee on her shirt before a meeting. Maybe he's late to pick up his kid from school. You don't know what's happening behind that scenes that could drastically affect the outcome. By building a culture around social media and customer service that puts customers' needs first, your brand can come out on top.


Play the long game. Many brands invest in the customer service aspect of social media because disgruntled customers can become your biggest advocates. After you've solved a customer's problem, her story told on social media can be a glowing endorsement. Avoid telling everyone that story and let your customers tell it for you.


Call us to talk about generating more goodwill and winning advocates on social media... 416 871 6283.