Social Media – Have You Ever Held a Brand to Ransom?

‘Don’t you know who I am?’ this pretentious statement has been known to be heard in the line of many an exclusive party or club launch, usually when a 2 bit, Z – list celebrity is a bit miffed that nobody actually gives a brown one who they are. Ridiculous and a little sad right? But have you ever used your ‘following’ within the social media space as a tool to get what you want from a brand or business? You may have thousands of followers on Twitter, hundreds of ‘friends’ (how many of them would you avoid in the street?) on Facebook or perhaps a blog with a strong readership – this amounts to a large sphere of people that you can easily share your dissatisfaction with. Word of mouth then has the potential to spread your whinge to their online (and offline) networks. Damage can be done and in a very short space of time.

No I Don’t Know Who You Are…

Do consumers have the right to dangle their network in front of a business in an attempt to receive better service or faster resolution of an issue? Does it actually get them anywhere? I asked a friend who is Head of Customer Communications for a large sports brand in the U.K. (remaining anonymous for obvious reasons).

“We try our hardest to resolve any issues to the customer’s full satisfaction, whether the complaint is raised via our social media platforms, email, telephone or even a letter. People do threaten to bad mouth us via their online networks but the fact is, if they are using Twitter their grumbles are out there for anyone to find if they want to. Our business is proactive – we monitor the platforms and actively seek to engage with customers that may be unhappy – this allows us to nip many issues in the bud before they escalate to a level where threats may be made to drag our business through the mud online. It has happened but we don’t treat those customers any differently than someone who has complained via the phone – they receive the same treatment and I am glad to say we have a great record of turning a negative in to a positive. If somebody takes the fight to their networks, and we feel we have done everything we possibly can to help them, then so be it, not everyone is going to be happy all of the time”

It would appear that the businesses that are proactive and have strong systems in place don’t take these threats too seriously as they are confident that they have exhausted all options. When I looked at the online sentiment for my friend’s brand, the positive way out-weighed the negative, this is a great place to be as it means that any brand hostage type scenario is unlikely to truly sway satisfied customers into a negative viewpoint.

The real damage can be done when it comes to a fledgling business, let’s say a new local café. If a percentage of their initial customer base is unhappy and voices their grumbles via an online network, the fallout can be huge, putting the business on the back foot very quickly.

Is this fair? Well in the words of Mitch Joel – ‘don’t suck!’ It’s obvious but oh so true, offer a great service and product and your customers will see little need to complain, and when they do, make sure you have the systems in place to enable you to approach the issue early and set the resolution process in motion. If the complaint has been made publically make sure you close it off publically (once resolved).

If somebody does give it all guns, tears up your brand and leaves little pieces of it all over the web, then perhaps it’s deserved? If your customer service is not up to scratch then more fool you. People today aren’t just telling their mates down the pub that you are rubbish, they have the means (and the will) to let thousands of people know. That’s a pretty large pub.

So over to you, have you held a brand to ransom with your online network? Was it a last resort during times of desperation? Did it get you anywhere? Have you actually done it? How did your network react? Do tell!