‘…And the family next door were on last week’s Crimewatch…’ and other things you want to delete on your business social media feed

When one chooses a prison, it’s always worth shopping around just to get a feel for the place I always find. You know, browsing Yelp, getting an insight into the facilities, the bartering culture and the general ambience, and then leaving a scathing review if the place just doesn’t quite live up to the high standards you expect from a prison.

If you thought on-line prison reviews were beyond the scope of the World Wide Web then you’d be (quite rightly) mistaken, as Business Week unveils that Lew Sterrett Justice Centre in Dallas has its very own Yelp Page. While some of the reviews are obviously fake (one review thought the place had a farm kitchen), some seem to be genuine testimonials from prisoners warning others from spending a night in the hell hole.

When the day has come that even prisons are getting bad-mouthed online, we can well and truly consider our transition to the digital sphere complete. Everyone has a voice (even the non-law abiding), and within social media and review sites, there is a whole mob of potentially angry consumers out there just waiting to trash your business. In fact, if anyone is likely to leave a review, it’ll be the few disgruntled types and not your armies of adoring fans.

Gone are the days of the simple comment card; if a service doesn’t deliver, we now know we can hit a business where it hurts (i.e. the pocket) and go on a serious smear campaign to tarnish their name.

Some brands are always going to be more susceptible to criticism, but in these cases it’s vital to think of social media not as a way of airing your dirty laundry in public, but as a way of responding to issues that would be running a-muck with your company without a cleverly crafted social media outlet to dampen the flames.

The customer might not always be right, but where social media’s concerned dealing with negativity effectively can be the difference between inspiring a frustrated graffiti attack on your feed or building the trust of your brand.

While it may be tempting to obliterate bad comments to the depths of cyberspace, a consumer with a gripe won’t go away at the click of the ‘delete’ button and will more likely become more intent on their rampage of ‘this company’s gone to the dogs’. Considering social media can be a last (and very public) resort for consumers who’ve received bad customer service face-to-face, responding quickly, positively and helpfully is the most efficient and professional method of rescuing a damaged customer-business relationship.

When musician Dave Carroll had his expensive guitar damaged by United Airlines baggage handling and United didn’t seem to give two hoots, the obvious thing to do was to pen a song and post it on YouTube, naturally. The song titled ‘United Breaks Guitars’ currently sits at 12,993,710 views and will forever be a pretty prominent example of a gripe that could have been quickly and graciously resolved but instead blew up because of a bad response.

Similar instances of companies pouring petrol on the social media coals pop up everyday with some great examples on Social Slurp of rude responses, riffs with customers and personal information leaks from companies ‘naming and shaming’ all from the past few weeks.

One such example on Social Slurp (and a rather entertaining read) is a Brighton pub with egg all over its grimy face after last week after committing a Facebook sin (and customer service nightmare)… and then making it a whole lot worse. The pub initially deleted a rude staff response to a band (making them look pretty shoddy) but of course people had already seen and criticised the company.

The company then responded with a whole spiel claiming the conversation was out of their control and ‘old admins’ could have been responsible. Just to make it even more cringe inducing, a dispute then came up between an old admin manager and the current manager when fingers were clearly pointed. All for the world to see.

Companies who react politely, proactively and quickly respond however? They usually not only evoke new faith in the customer, but they look pretty high and mighty to others who’ve seen the negative comments.

An American burrito chain even managed to salvage its reputation after someone claimed their food had made them ill on Twitter (the ultimate food industry dreaded tweet) by posting a friendly, professional and deeply apologetic tweet that asked the intestinally-challenged customer to email the company to resolve the issue. The customer was thrilled and even complimented the companies (usually) impeccable food. You can see the whole exchange on Search Engine Journal – if you thought a food poisoning story couldn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy, this’ll change your mind.

Social media doesn’t work if your strategy is one of ‘our company is awesome and we’ll keep shoving pictures and updates in your face until you realise that’, it’s an ongoing conversation, a chance to build rapport and use your public space as a powerful customer service channel.

Even if the customer is an idiot:

Original edited tweet: @O2 F*** YOU! GO TO HELL.

  • Written by on 29th April 2013 at 11:35
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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