It’s All About Attitude

Chapters two and three of Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics do a great job of explaining how companies can leverage social media to build and enhance their image and reputation. The key, it seems, is to focus on the positive. Some companies take a very reactive approach, viewing critical feedback on various social media outlets as something to be controlled or contained. Responding in this way (essentially by stifling the opinions of consumers) really doesn’t do much for the company or the consumer. Companies that are truly successful use criticism in a more productive way, as Qualman explains,

“Effective companies and people relish online feedback. They use the information to make themselves more competitive by improving their products and services in the eyes of the consumer . . . Good companies view it as an opportunity to prove to the customer that they are willing to go the extra mile for them” (p. 40).

Personally, I hadn’t thought about it this way before. It’s really in a business’s best interest to respond to online criticism proactively. Then, they can not only acknowledge the consumer’s complaint, but also create an opportunity for themselves. If they are able to rectify the situation, they demonstrate—in a very public way—their willingness to help and that they care about their customers’ satisfaction.

Today, the companies that embrace the social capabilities of an online environment are in the best position to thrive. While doing this week’s readings, I found a good example. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, uses Twitter to as a way for employees to communicate directly with customers about their products. This is exactly the type of positive, proactive interaction Qualman is talking about. Not only can employees assist customers, if needed, but they can also interact with them on a personal level—in front of a presumably large audience in the public sphere.

Companies who are struggling to develop a social media strategy would do well to examine their approach. Using lemons (criticism and complaints) to make lemonade (a lasting, positive impression to customers and their social networks) is an invaluable tool. The company doesn’t necessarily control what the online community is saying, rather it uses it to positively influence the way consumers feel.

Posted on September 23, 2012, in Social Media, Society, Uncategorized, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. When I was reading the section of this week’s readings to which you are referring, I couldn’t help but think that responding to customer complaints in such a public manner is a slippery slope. If the company is too generous with their responses to customers, couldn’t they risk being bombarded by people vying for the company’s attention (and free stuff) by coming up with contrived grievances? Perhaps the increased number of complaints, whether genuine or not, would give the company a bad name, even if they addressed the complaints, or the company would resort to posting fake praise about themselves. If they don’t do enough in the eyes of the public, however, they come off as being cheap and not valuing their customers. I think it is safer for companies, and in the long run, safer for consumers, to keep responses to grievances between company and customer rather than putting it out in the public sphere, or at least limiting public responses to “canned” versions.

    • I can definitely see your point, but people are going to air their complaints in online, public venues regardless of how companies respond to it. I guess how companies choose to address them (and if they address them at all) depends largely on the perceived cost/benefit, which probably varies greatly by industry and company.

  2. I can relate to the third paragraph of your post. I have also been shopping for things on-line that I can’t find locally. Some stores, usually those that provide product solely over the internet utilize instant messaging and twitter to help with sales. I remember I was looking for a motorcycle part and all of a sudden a screen popped up asking if I needed help. There was a little area to type any questions/concerns. However, I didn’t use it. By I can certainly see how this could be helpful–considering the person on the other end actually knows what they are talking about.

  3. I echo what Laura said. I do think it is amazing that companies use social media to pro-actively enhance their service, but I do think there are already some companies that abuse this.

    I can’t remember which show it was (Nightline or Dateline, maybe) that showed that there were a lot of hotels and restaurants that were pumping social media sites with good reviews of their own businesses and there were even some that were posting negative reviews against their competitors.

    Not to mention the practice of bribing influential bloggers to write good stuff about them. I’m sure that most companies are on the up-and-up, but I think it is important to note that there is a difference between actual word of mouth and virtual word of mouth..

  4. In all this discussion, I wonder if companies actually use SNS to communicate with their customers (for complaints and anything else) who is internally responsible for this communication, the salesperson or the technical communicator? Do those two professions become one (in this field)?

    • I think you might be on to something there. I think there is a convergence that is happening in tech comms. Support, training, and documentation are all kind of merging in this information delivery role that is facilitated through the web and social sites.

  5. At first I’d thought you linked to Qualman’s site http://www.socialnomics.net/ but I’m glad you linked to the Amazon.com entry because that acknowledges the audience beyond our classlist.

    LIke Zappos, I’m also a fan of the @AskAmex Twitter account. Their staff announces their times to ask questions, usually 9am-5pm Eastern, and they answer ?s very quickly. I don’t know if these “Agents” have any type of technical communication experience, but given the new job title of “social media expert,” I’m guessing it’s a hybrid of both salesperson and web communicator.

  1. Pingback: Maybe Qualman Has a Point… « Communication Strategies for Emerging Media

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