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When Customers Attack

In the business world, and in public relations, it’s not uncommon for customers to vent on social media networks when they encounter problems and feel the business is not interested in assisting them with a solution. The most famous example of a disgruntled customer is the gentleman who had his guitar broken by United Airlines, then wrote a song and uploaded a music video about the incident to YouTube. So far this has been watched over 13 million times. While it’s certainly an extreme example of exposure for a customer complaint, it’s far from out of the ordinary. Consumers are slowly discovering that taking to social networks garners results, as companies monitor them more carefully.

Recently, a customer took social media venting to a new level when he tweeted about British Airways losing his father’s luggage. This man decided, however, to pay Twitter to promote the tweet at a cost of $1,000. Typically, the extent to which negative PR is possible is dependent on either the outrageousness of the incident or the size and attentiveness of the person’s networks. This new strategy, however, negates those factors. You don’t have to be a business to promote a tweet, publish a Facebook ad or promote a post. Given the right emotional state and available resources, someone that typically may not have the social reach to cause any major damage, now has a way to ensure that their complaints are viewed by a wide audience.

While it may seem as if airlines take the brunt of these attacks, car dealerships certainly experience online complaints through social networks and review sites. In most instances it’s due to the fact that consumers don’t believe that their problems will get resolved. While not all of them have merit, consumers tend to support each other. Only in rare instances do consumers take a stand on the side of the business.

Many experts advise that businesses participate on social networks with rich and engaging content in order to nurture their audience, gain brand exposure and offer another venue to communicate with their customers, and vice versa. Another important facet of having a social media presence is online reputation management. If you aren’t participating in social networks, chances are that you are also not monitoring them. Not only do consumers – especially social media users – expect businesses to have presences on social media channels; but they also expect to be answered when they ask questions or have grievances. In fact, 60 percent of consumers expect a response from a brand on social media, according to an article on ClickZ. In addition, 42 percent of consumers who complain not only expect a response, but they expect one within 60 minutes, according to social media expert, Jay Baer.

Social media has expanded from the avenue of communication it conveniently offered between a person’s family and friends, into one which includes consumer to business communication. It has become an extension of your customer service department. Failing to monitor and respond to consumers is similar in their minds to not answering your business’ phone.

If your business hasn’t joined social media networks and you aren’t monitoring and communicating with your customers, you not only run the risk of missing out on negative conversations that could have been resolved,  but you also take the chance that customers perceive your business as uncaring.

Not unlike an ostrich with its head in the sand, the world of social media never rests and is always happening, whether you see it or not.

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