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What if they say we suck?

August 25, 2009

“What if they say we suck?”

This is one of the questions asked by brands who are about to engage in social media. Be it in Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments of a potential blog.

It’s perfectly rational to wonder if someone will say something bad. As more and more people share opinions and experiences with products and services, there are occasional moments where someone stands up and says “That product or experience sucked.”

All brands have their haters. Think about our response in general: we often talk about great or really crappy experiences. That’s called response boas: we’re more likely to remember an experience that is made memorable for being good or bad.

So haters are out there. But the fact that the haters are out there isn’t the point of this post. The point is control, and the illusion of it. Because when you read between the lines of “What if they say something bad about us” what people are really wondering is this:

“If we enter social media will we lose control of the message?”

Before this whole internet thing, brands were generally in control of the message. They were certainly in control of the ad message, and most of the time, the other parts could be relatively controlled.

Marketers controlled what they could because for the most part, people didn’t have platforms.

When brands interacted with someone with a platform, like a critic, they ensured the person received better treatment.

What’s different now is that everyone is a potential critic. Everyone might have a platform. More and more people are reviewing and talking about brands on social media.

So the question, “What if they say we suck?”or, “If we stay out of social media, we’ll stay in control” needs to be asked assuming everyone has a platform. If brands decide to stay out of these places in order to “stay in control”, are they really staying in control?

To be clear: this isn’t an argument for a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, or the next shiny new thing. It’s an argument that most brands will be having this year. Namely, what are people saying about our brand online, and how can we control it?

It’s an interesting question. What are your thoughts?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 10:50 am

    I agree that a lot of brands are weary to jump into the conversation because they don’t want people to criticize them. But bad reviews are not the problem, they are a symptom. Not listening to customers is often the root of the problem. Most people will try to tell the company first about their complaint, but mismanagement eventually provokes the posting. Also being online allows you the ability, should something bad happen, to be the first to report your mistake. This tells customers you’re honest, and ultimately have some control over the conversation.

  2. September 10, 2009 11:42 am

    Thanks for the comment. It’s especially gratifying since you’re from my hood. I agree with what you said. When someone asks if they ‘should be in social media’, I often show them that they already are. There’s chatter about all brands out there, and listening is step one.

    The other thing I like to think about is the bad reviewer. Why do they take the time? What’s the motivation? Do they want the place to be better, or do they simply like complaining? I think if you study what they say, you can see their motivations, and act accordingly.

  3. Rubina permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:26 am

    So long as you don’t deal with it as Nestle did, well I think you’re ahead…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/nestle-facebook

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