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What does your business use social media for? If you aren’t using it as an early warning indicator, a Bat-signal to bring in the caped crusader and get your marketing programmes back on track when they start to falter, then you should be.
Social media streams are filled with your customers. Ideally, they would all be talking about you in glowing terms. More likely though is that much of the social media mentions you get will be bad. Because we humans tend to complain in spades when we can, but we aren’t so good at letting the world know when something was awesome.
Sounds pretty bad but it isn’t. Because most praise is useless to you. If you’re doing things right that’s great to know, but it doesn’t really help you strive to do things better.
So what you really want to know from the social media streams you’re being mentioned on is, what’s going wrong, how wrong has it gone and what do you need to do in the way of programme adjustment?
Let’s say you run a hotel and part of your overall programme (the basic structure of a visitor’s stay) is that check out is 10am sharp, with the car park token running out at 10.30am. And let’s also say that you interrogate Twitter to see who’s mentioning your brand – and you find out it’s full of people bemoaning the too-early checkout time and the fact that they then only have a half hour to vacate the parking lot before they get locked in and fined.
What do you do? You could get on the stream and start responding indignantly, this is hotel policy and always has been etc etc – or you could do something constructive and mould your programme to fit the consensus view. Have checkout at 11am and leave the car park token active until midday. Then you’ve used social media complaints to make appositive change to the way you do things – thereby avoiding the risk of your reputation for being intransigent spiralling out of control.
Customer service departments are just starting to cotton onto this. I recently had a poor experience at the hands of a phone company and posted a rant on their social media page. The customer service team got in touch with me on the page, so their response could be seen by all who visited. The result: proactive customer service proving a company’s commitment to getting things right when they’ve started going wrong.
I recently heard a piece of great marketing wisdom: better programmes are better than reacting to problems. What that means is, when you use social media to find out what people think about you and why, you can forestall the existence of future problems for your brand by making adjustments in the systems you use to interact with your public.
So remember, next time you recoil in horror from something terrible someone is saying about your brand on Facebook: it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.