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News & Views

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  • 15 July 2014
  • Hugh Burrows

Attitudes to Social Media - A ticking Time Bomb or an Irrational Fear

On Friday, PR Week reported on a survey of 500 UK businesses about their attitudes to social media.

It revealed that three-quarters of respondents view social platforms as problematic because of their propensity to attract damaging negative comment that can affect reputation or sales. The MD of reputation management firm Igniyte, which commissioned the research via OnePoll, on learning of the effect of negative reviews on click-through rates, felt compelled to describe social media as a ‘huge ticking time bomb’ for businesses.

Whilst these concerns are undoubtedly valid, it seems that the other half of the story has not really been told – or at least only partly told, notably by Travelodge’s Shakila Ahmed, who’s also quoted in the article:

“All our managers monitor TripAdvisor. We have a structure that allows us to speak to them regularly, to find out what went wrong in the case of a bad review and what they have done to put it right. If you are dabbling online you have to have a level of commitment that will allow you to provide proper customer service and respond in a timely manner to comments.”

The other half of the story, in full, reads a bit like this: if you’re a business that’s in social media (or is pondering whether to get into social media), you need to do two things…

Firstly

HARNESS THE POWER OF POSITIVE. Social media can be hugely beneficial – far more so than harmful in the case of the average brand. Harnessing this benefit means promoting good reviews, both on and offline, heroing those social followers who support and recommend your product or service, launching an advocacy programme by engaging with appropriate bloggers and influencers, and delighting your social audiences by consistently creating great content that’s entertaining, useful, clever or thought-provoking. It also means responding swiftly and appropriately to negative comment and letting your followers see that you are doing this: they’ll soon understand that you’re listening and you’re acting. You may also find that many of your social followers intervene to defend you when unfairly attacked. I recently witnessed this on Microsoft Windows’ Facebook page, when they’d just announced the release of the Surface Pro 2. The predictable Microsoft-bashers (OK, Apple zombies) demanded en masse to know who would possibly buy a tablet ‘at this price’, only to be shot down by numerous comments from slightly more alert tech fans and influencers who had recognised the true promise of the machine: a very high-performance laptop in the body of a tablet, making it one of the ultimate PC convertibles. The device garnered superb reviews in the consumer tech media – and these reviews, along with scores of positive social comments, gifted Microsoft a wealth of great content and some hot leads for a social advocacy programme.

Secondly

DON’T GET SCARED, GET PREPARED! Make sure that you have an appropriate social reputation management procedure in place and – crucially – the resources to support it, whether internal or external. The latter often makes sense given that internal teams may be committed in other areas – whereas external specialists already have the expertise, processes and tools to deliver. Start off by creating a ‘comment matrix’ and sort social comments into positive ones, questions, negative ones, and plain trolling (that’s off-topic, illegal or abusive). The latter can usually be deleted straight away – additionally you may block or report the user if necessary. For the remainder, create a protocol for what you’ll do in each case: this might mean drafting FAQs, publishing weblinks to customer resources, devising a template for a reactive statement by the business, or agreeing escalation points for more serious issues. - Once that’s done, you should make sure that you have the appropriate listening tools in place, agree a response time to each type of feedback – and stick to it!

Just one blog post… but hopefully enough to start defusing the time bomb.

Hugh Burrows

Head of Digital