Managing the negative

gunpanicyInternet and Web Development

Jun 26, 2012 (6 years and 28 days ago)


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With commercial power now shifting to the consumer, individuals can have a profound
negative impact on a businesses reputation in the market place. How do companies cope
with this fundamental change?
As more companies venture into the social media space, the fear of negative sentiment
looms large. Any misstep can be blogged about, shared, tweeted, and retweeted in a
matter of hours, leaving a company’s online reputation in tatters. Consumers can now
potentially command a large audience, as they become a key person of influence in their
specialist area. In the past, a disgruntled customer would tell ten friends about a bad
experience, now that customer can communicate their anger with tens of thousands of
followers in seconds.
Recently prominent blogger C.C. Chapman wrote a post titled Ragu Hates Dads, in
reference to a campaign the Italian sauce company were running about what it’s like
when dads cook. They made some online mistakes that were outlined in his blog post and
follow-up blog posts, and then amplified by C.C.’s large following. This is every company’s
worst online nightmare.
When these negative posts arise, many companies don’t know what to do. Some choose
to fire fight by arguing, and some respond by deleting the comments if that’s possible
(for example, in a post on a Facebook Page or blog comment). None of these responses
are a good choice. Deleting or ignoring negative feedback will only increase the negative
experience from the customer. And if discovered, will exacerbate the situation.
What should a company do when negative blog entries, tweets or Facebook comments
are posted about their brand? Deb Ng, author of Online Community Management for
Dummies, says, “There are different types of negative comments. For example, a positive,
respectful comment or discussion offering feedback regarding a negative experience
should never be swept under the rug. Thank the community member offering the feedback
and let them know you’re going to look in to the matter.”
Have a policy
An important aspect of participating in social media is having a disaster plan. If you
are responsible for your company’s social media efforts, you need to make these plans
immediately. What will you do if and when negative sentiments arise? Who will be notified
and at what point? A study by Econsultancy found that only 34% of companies surveyed
Managing the negative
By Nick Johnson
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
escalate issues raised in social media so that the responsible team is notified.
Your policy should include:
• How quickly you will respond. If you want to respond to customers within the hour
of tweeting or posting, make sure you have a team monitoring the space or have an
alert system in place.
• When you respond. Are you responding to every negative tweet? For larger brands
this can be challenging but it can be done.

How an issue is escalated. When is it necessary to bring in another department?
What tools does the social media team have in place to help the customer? When do
you take the issue offline with a phone call or e-mail? Document all these processes
so that all departments are on the same page.
Not only do you need an internal policy for how negative comments are handled, but you
need an external policy to show your community how you will operate in the social space.
Outline the terms of use on individual platforms such as Facebook Page posts, Google+
Pages, blog comments, and Tweets.
It’s also important to remember that a negative post can help you improve your product
or service. Marcy Cohen of Sony Electronics, has this to say about their philosophy when
receiving negative comments: “At Sony Electronics we care what our community of
fans think about our brand, our products and services. Whether they are sharing their
excitement upon purchasing a new Sony product or their disappointment when a product
doesn’t work the way they expected, we learn from any kind of feedback.
“As community managers, it is our responsibility to set the tone and purpose of our social
media platforms. The strategic management of negative comments is an integral part of
that. If there is an issue that needs to be handled, we have several resources we are able
to utilize. Those include representatives from our Sony Listens customer support team
who are who are present on our social channels every day. It also includes steering certain
comments to our forums or ratings and reviews.”
Just because these are social spaces doesn’t mean that a disgruntled customer should
be able to hassle other members of the community or post spam on your Facebook
wall. Ekaterina Walters of Intel says: “Having moderation guidelines in place for your
Facebook page is critical! You cannot create your own terms and conditions for your page
(Facebook requires everyone to comply with their T&Cs), but you can specify what kinds
of behaviors will not be tolerated within your community.
“For example, on our Intel Facebook page we outline the list of posts that will be taken
down like abusive remarks, offensive language, fraudulent posts, spam, commercial
solicitations, link-baiting, etc. Intel’s Social Media Guidelines also include “the good,
the bad, but not the ugly” rule, which states that no matter what forum the discussion
takes place in, we will leave the positive comments and the negative comments, but not
abusive, foul, and inappropriate comments.”
Post your social media policy publicly so that your community knows the rules. Many
companies put their Facebook policy on the Info tab of their Facebook Page. You may
choose to create a separate tab with your Policy to highlight it as Dove did on their
Facebook Page:
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
In the Econsultancy’s State of the Social Report 2011, they reported that 52% of companies
surveyed were using Facebook for reacting to customer issues and inquiries compared
to only 29% last year. Many consumers have long ago realized that it is easier for them to
tweet with a brand to get customer service than going through other channels.
Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions,
says, ”Social media is raising the expectations of customer service and the ability to
meet these expectations. For example, if you mention a bad experience on Twitter or
Google+, you expect a response from the company. And, fortunately, companies like Dell
and Comcast have proven that the companies can in fact meet these expectations.”
With the accessibility of online reviews, the average consumer has a much bigger voice
and can have a profound effect on brands. In a recent Nielsen study, 70% of the people
surveyed had some degree of trust in consumer opinions posted online. And 90% trusted
recommendations from people they knew. When those reviews are negative, sales can
Use social media monitoring tools
But how do you track this online sentiment and fi nd the people who are posting about
your brand? There are literally hundreds of social media monitoring tools available, both
free and paid. In Twitter the easiest way is to monitor the stream is by using keyword
searches. Google Alerts can help you monitor blog posts and website posts about your
brand. Facebook has a search tool that can track public posts, but will not track posts
made by private personal profi les. And Social Mention is another free tool that tracks
mentions across several social sites.
The take-away from all this is that companies need to have some social monitoring plan
in place so they can track online comments, deal with negative buzz before it becomes
a problem, and control their reputation. Online customer service is here to stay and the
sooner brands can put their policy in place and start listening and participating, the better
positioned they are to deliver a world-class experience to their customer.
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
As the new kid on the block, Google+ is gaining followers at a rapid pace. The question is
should businesses be paying attention to it right now?
Launched at the end of June as an invitation-only product Google+ is the search-engine
giant’s latest attempt at building a social networking contender. With Facebook inexorably
marching towards one billion users, the question being asked is whether Google+ can
mount a serious challenge to Facebook’s dominance.
One of the keys to the potential of Google+ is the range of tools that Google already owns.
And while it’s all too easy to focus on the failures such as Buzz and Wave, it’s important
to remember Google’s many successes build on the astonishing success of their search
engine. From the start Google+ has been combined with other Google products such as
maps and gmail. And the brand’s newly launched iTunes competitor, Google Music, was
immediately integrated into the Google+ platform.
Google+ also comes with a range of new features that will – the company claims –
differentiate it from Facebook. Notable among these is Circles, which enables users to
cluster friends, customers or other participants into discrete groups. Users can share
content such as videos, text and pictures with specific people, while excluding others.
Hangouts are another innovation – a kind of live videoconference or chatroom into which
a user’s friends can dip in and out.
Says Dr Claire Wardle, one of the co-founders of UltraSocial, which helps organisations
to develop and maximise their social media presence and potential: “The fact that you
can integrate Google docs, create small or large Circles to target conversations, and have
multiple video chats, offers interesting elements. I think Hangouts have real opportunities
and when companies start using Circles effectively and connecting with certain types of
customers who want certain types of information, Google+ might really start to take off.”
Pages: Google+ for corporates
Focusing on the business sector, with the launch in early November of Google+ Pages,
the network is fully open to companies and brands. And while Google fully acknowledges
that the business platform is still work-in-progress, and that it will develop considerably
over the coming months, SEO specialist BrightEdge claims in its November SocialShare
update that 61 of the world’s top 100 brands had created Google+ pages within a couple
of weeks of the launch.
Is Google+ a Facebook Killer?
By Martyn Wilson
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
Tom McCloughlin of The WebMarketing Group says this is sound policy: “I would
recommend businesses getting a page now. Early adopters of these platforms normally
become the key influencers so the sooner you can be involved the better. Even if the
format hasn’t yet been fully established, if you have a basic presence then you are in a
good position to capitalise once Google irons out the creases.” Sam Allcock, Director at
Custard Media Solutions agrees, pointing out that: “Owning your own business page on
new platforms is a very important SEO and reputation management strategy.”
However, Erin Ledbetter, Director of Business Development at Ignite Social Media
says that for most brands, she’d recommend holding off on Google+ for now: “There’s
a misconception that social media is cheap because anyone can sign up for a Twitter,
Facebook, Google+ account for free. However, time is money and it takes time to manage
these channels, create content, engage with users, etc. By setting up a page on Google+,
brands are simply creating another channel they need to put an effort behind when little
to no business value has been established, yet.”
Differentiation in the marketplace
The battle that Google+ is waging at the
moment is clearly to win the hearts and minds of
Facebook users. In the business and corporate
arena where brand awareness and customer
conversations now have a monetary value across
the social space, adding Google+ to a business’
presence must be carefully evaluated.
Erin Ledbetter of Ignite Social Media isn’t sure that Google+ is different enough, saying
that apart from Hangouts and search: “I’ve yet to see a need for Google+ when it comes
to social networking that is not fulfilled, in most cases, more successfully by Facebook.”
She goes on say that Hangouts might not be a differentiator for long, pointing out that:
“Facebook announced group chat in July and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them come
out with group video chat in the future, especially given their Skype partnership.”
With UltraSocial’s Dr Claire Wardle concluding: “The reason Google+ has so much power
is because of Google Search. I expect it will soon come to a point that when someone
searches for a type of product in Google, the top links will include Google+ pages for that
type of product. You want to be there, using Google+ successfully to rank highly.”
Time will tell: Google+ has had massive take-up in a very short time – seeing much faster
growth from launch than either Twitter or Facebook – but this implies a similarly high level
of expectation. If it lives up to this promise, then Google+ could well attain the tipping
point, and become as much a fixture in the lives of Internet users as the search engine
that spawned it.
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
The semantic social web has the potential to change the way businesses market to
individual customers. Will consumers – and networking sites – be willing to share enough
information to make it a reality?
The semantic web – which has been much discussed for more than a decade now –
suggests it is possible to redefine the Internet as a framework that will allow data to be
shared across applications, enterprises and communities. Instead of the Internet as it is
today filled with information in incompatible formats, the semantic web would use just one
standard data format.
There is, of course, a massive amount of data on the Internet, not only on websites, but
also in individual searches, forum posts, blogs and other personal information that we
provide every time we go online. The problem that the semantic web seeks to address is
that much of this data is not freely accessible. If it could be made available in a standard
open format, it could be worked on, analysed and manipulated much more easily. And
this has enormous implications for the way we use and interact with the Internet, and with
each other.
The concept led to the idea of Linked Data, the benefits of which were enthusiastically
outlined by Tim Berners-Lee – the creator of the Internet – at TED 2009. Underpinning
the concept of Linked Data is the fundamental altruism – sometimes called the “wiki”
philosophy – which drives a lot of the web: the idea that sharing information is a good
thing, because the more we all know, the more we all benefit.
However, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how helpful the semantic
web could be for companies who use the Internet to market products and services to
potential customers. Some online retailers are already using a form of semantic web. For
example, buy something on Amazon, and you will automatically get subsequent emails
about related products. But this is a closed system. If it becomes a reality, the semantic
web could deliver both the raw material and the analytical tools to show businesses what
motivates individual customers – including those of other vendors – and what influences
their buying decisions.
The semantic web in the social networking arena
So far, so exciting. But what could really make a difference is being able to use the
postings on social networking sites as data sources. It’s already the case that Microsoft’s
Semantic social marketing:
the next big thing?
By Martyn Wilson
For corporate social media case studies and best
practice, head to
and follow us on Twitter at @usefulsocial
Bing search engine can serve data from Facebook and Twitter, and in September,
Facebook opened its Open Graph that it describes as: “A meaningful first step to a true
semantic web” – to developers. What this offers is the potential, still to be fully realised, of
aggregating the data posted by – and about – individuals, and analysing it to deliver highly
targeted marketing information.
It opens up the possibility of, say, a cruise-ship company sending a pop-up message to
the smartphone of someone who has been (a) searching the web for information about
holidays; (b) reviewing and posting on forums to get opinions about specific types of
holidays; (c) adding posts to a Facebook or Google+ page about the relative merits of
cruises; (d) following the Tweets of someone who is actually on a cruise; and so on.
The question of precision
The first question to ask is whether it is going to be possible to track and analyse all this
data at a sufficiently granular level – and with sufficient precision – to make it worthwhile.
Ken Taylor, Managing Director of UltraKnowledge has his doubts: “It is actually quite
hard to extract good quality reliable data that can be translated into targeted marketing
Tom McCloughlin of The WebMarketing Group is more sanguine, noting that Google
already targets ads based on the content of emails, and Facebook ads are also user-
specific to a degree. However, he does question how deep semantic social marketing can
go and “whether it will be able to monitor conversations as well as just personal profile
information like age, location etc.”
One of the other major issues is of privacy: how much information will people be willing to
give up so that they can receive personalised offers? Of course, as Ken Taylor points out,
“People already give away much more personal data than they realise,” just by visiting
websites. John Peters of BicWeb Media also notes that advertisements “can follow you
around the web, based on the sites or pages you visit”, and agrees that “people are just
not aware of the extent that they are actually analysed and tracked as they interact with
websites and social media.”
The benefits of personalised offers
Clearly there are definite benefits for consumers. If you enjoy eating out at, say, Italian
restaurants, wouldn’t it be good if the name of a nearby and recommended Trattoria
popped up on your phone when you were in a strange town? On that basis, why not let
marketers know your preferences?
Apart from the legal issues – and in most countries data protection is treated very seriously
– there is anecdotal evidence that younger people are more open-minded when it comes
to sharing personal information. This openness may be related to the fact that people
under the age of 35 have grown up with the Internet as an integral part of their lives – in
much the same way as Baby Boomers grew up with television – so they are more used to
this kind of interaction.
Tom McLoughlin of The WebMarketing Group comments: “Only a small proportion of users
will resent their data being used [in this way]. In most cases, if it is done correctly, the ads
shown should be useful and relevant for the user and so improve their experience.” Ultra
Knowledge’s Ken Taylor, disagrees, feeling that: “The harvesting of personalised data will
For corporate social media case studies and best
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cause resentment” and in any case, that “the real problem is being able to personalise
offers at the granular level [in a way] that is meaningful.”
This “Big Brother” concern – the service might be helpful, but are we comfortable with
being watched – may be important, but perhaps it’s not the critical consideration. BicWeb
Media’s John Peters thinks that semantic social media is a real possibility “as long as
Facebook, Twitter and Google want it to happen”.
And this is the key point: for semantic social marketing to be fully effective, services
such as Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter and the rest will need to embrace fully the
concept of having open-standard data access – in the knowledge that it could benefit
everyone else in the marketplace. And that may be a step too far.