Once upon a time, companies entered the social media universe hoping to talk about their terrific products and to find thousands of new customers.
They placed their shiny new social media channels in the hands of eager (and perhaps nervous) marketing and communications teams. And they started working on lots of happy content to share.
What they failed to recognise – and this is still evolving – is that many members of the public didn’t see social media engagement in the same way.
For many consumers, social media is the new complaints department.
And no matter what type of good news you share, your organisation may find that some responses you get from the community are negative, critical, angry, aggressive and off topic.
Related reading: PR and social media – cousins in conscience
In Australia, perhaps one of the sectors which has rolled with this more than others is the telecommunications industry. After all, it is one of those industries which historically “can’t please all of the people all of the time” and has long devoted substantial resources to its customer service centres.
So we see now that companies like Vodafone and Telstra have spent some years in Facebook and Twitter and are taking a somewhat more mature and measured approach to social media than many.
I was interested to see that both Vodafone and Telstra have a ‘customer service’ Twitter account and a separate company Twitter account that provides news and product updates. So in this way, they’ve separated customer service and marketing (though of course both accounts will get varying interactions from the community). This separates the tweeters who are interested only in ‘online help’ and those who want to be in touch with company news and marketing. (I searched the Optus presence on Twitter and it would appear it only maintains one Twitter account. Correct me if you find another.)
If you’re a newcomer to social media, you might look at the telcos Twitter accounts and be aghast at the tweets they’re receiving. After all, it looks like a long list of frustrated complaints and bad publicity. But if you consider that this is occurring for all major telcos you realise they’re on a level playing field.
And after all, we know that telcos get complaints. As do the banks. As do airlines.
What matters is how these companies respond – and this is where they can set themselves apart and even ‘win back’ disgruntled customers.
(Additionally, when a customer complains about a telco online publicly, it provides an opportunity for a competitor to step in and tweet an offer to entice that customer away).
These complaints used to be billed as ‘social media crises’ but we’re growing up now and recognise that they’re not the end of the world. Today, they’re a business reality.
This post is focusing on your day-to-day service complaints. But we know that corporations experience much more than this online today. Many public posts demand that corporations make a change to the way they behave. I’ll be writing about this – and Corporate Social Responsibility – in my next post.
This post is based on a section of the presentation I gave to Marketing Week #MICON in Adelaide last week. You can find the Storify summary here.
Footnote: I had a chat with Jason from the Optus social media team and I really appreciated his time. Optus does in fact also have an @optusbusiness and @optus_careers Twitter account, but the main community interaction is via @Optus as I outlined above. Jason says they put a lot of time and effort into the social environment and what they do is always evolving, but the focus is very firmly on support and help.