Monday, April 19, 2010

A pocket knife can do lots, but not everything

I was doing some blah blah blah about social media to a class the other day, and was posed with a tricky situation.

One of the people in the class had seen, via a mutual friend on Facebook, someone talking smack about their company on their personal status update. She asked me what the company should do in that situation.

The company has no official Facebook presence (yet…), but even if they did, this person would not have been a fan or friend, so there was no way the company could officially reply on the disgruntled customer’s personal page.

So what to do?

Having mulled it over while drinking beers & watching David Attenborough (my muse) I decided that this is not a problem that can be solved by social media.

My opinion is that the best course of action would be make a phone call to the customer & try to resolve the issue that way.

Having righted the situation via a traditional channel, the hope is that the opinion of the customer would be changed sufficient that they would then tell their friends and family at a later date – maybe via social media, but maybe not.

Had this been on Twitter, a much more public forum, it would have been ok for the company to get in touch directly through the same channel. But as Facebook requires expressed permission before you can eavesdrop, and as the company did not have that permission, even acknowledging that they had heard the complaint through that channel could be construed as an invasion of privacy.

It got me thinking about one of the myths of social media. It can’t do everything.

There is a bit of talk about being wary of the social media douchebag. I think one of the signs you are dealing with a douche is that they discount any other means of dealing with issues. They think social media can do anything and everything.

In this example the problem was created by social media giving the customer a public outlet for their frustrations, however I do not think social media could have resolved it.

Going back to my favourite analogy of social media being like a barbecue, this was the equivalent of the company finding out that someone at a different barbecue had been complaining to the other gusts. But the company itself was not present and was not invited.

To crash the party purely for the purpose of changing what the complainer was saying, even if the company had come in with frankincense & myrrh to give to everyone, would only have seemed big brother-ish and defensive.

Social media can do a lot of things, like make you aware of perceptions, however it can’t do everything. It should always be thought of purely as another tool at your disposal, and you should not forget about the rest of the shed.

It was an interesting situation though. What would you have done?

1 comment:

  1. Nice point - no other means but to resolve the issue with the customer by calling him and sort it out. However, he has the right to ask how the Company knew about the feedback, and what is the Company to say? "We saw it on a mutual friends' Facebook page?"? Well, not everything said in Facebook is gospel - for all we know, he might just be pretending to be a disgruntled customer, saying something about a Company (can be a competitor) to taint its brand.