Libn.com sought the advice and expertise of Nicole Larrauri, Managing Partner of The EGC Group, about the need for brands to be social media-savvy.
Why Your Company Needs to Monitor Social Media Feedback and Fast
by Pedram Tabibi
January 25, 2013
Nowadays, companies increasingly use social media to engage with customers, promote brands and advertise products. From start-up businesses to major companies, social media presence is becoming increasingly important, and if a company is not in social media it is not truly in the game.
It is interesting then that one recent article discussed how some companies are actually backing off from social media. While most companies try to increase social media engagement, these companies are deleting their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
Charter, a U.S. cable provider with 5.2 million customers, shuttered its social media customer service team in December 2012. New England’s biggest grocery store, Wegmans, closed its 8,000-fan Facebook page too. The unfiltered nature of social media customer feedback, coupled with the constant amount of comments, were cited as challenges for companies trying to utilize social media for business.
In Wegmans’ case, the Facebook page closing stemmed from an inability to quickly respond to customers. Wegmans’ employees did not have enough time to monitor the Facebook page and handle other job duties. This begs the question though, why wasn’t there a dedicated individual servicing Wegmans’ Facebook page? In this day and age, with many people seeking work and well-versed in social media, it seems a little odd that Wegmans chose to abandon the Facebook page altogether rather than try to tackle the issue, and possible opportunity, head on.
This reminded me of a story from 2012, where a single post on David’s Bridal’s Facebook page turned into a disaster. An upset David’s Bridal customer posted her unpleasant experience on the David’s Bridal Facebook wall. The jilted customer’s Facebook post received over 125,000 likes and 11,000 comments, including several similar frustrating experiences at other David’s Bridal locations. The Facebook posts grew to the point where customers were encouraged to shop for wedding dresses at other stores and boycott David’s Bridal.
Perhaps due to a lack of dedicated social media response procedures, David’s Bridal posted a terse statement online over a week later, which allowed the damage to fester and grow online for days, stating it was reviewing the incident. David’s Bridal seemed clueless that its reputation and future was at stake, all as a result of a single Facebook post. In fact, many large businesses prohibit customer posting on social media platforms to avoid just this type of situation.
The question then is just what can a company do to avoid their own social media PR disaster? Is the answer to have a dedicated employee on social media constantly monitoring comments, or to simply turn off the ability of customers to vent their frustrations online for fear of a snowball public relations hit? In order to get some insight, I went to an expert on social media marketing, Nicole Larrauri, managing partner at The EGC Group.
When asked if a company should have an individual or team dedicated to social media, Larrauri responded: “Absolutely. Not having resources dedicated to social media is like not having someone available to answer the phone, it’s an expected form of communication. In small companies, it can be a shared responsibility. In larger companies, we recommend an in-house team complemented with outside strategic counsel or a fully outsourced team that can be the voice of the brand.”
However, what about a company with limited resources? Larrauri replied: “A middle ground solution for a company with limited resources is to state what an expected time frame for response will be. It is OK to state in your company profile that your community manager responds within a 24-hour period, Monday through Friday [during normal] business hours.”
Larrauri noted the importance of responding quickly to client feedback on Facebook and Twitter: “It is critically important that client feedback to Facebook and Twitter is real time. It is the nature of the medium. Twitter is especially critical. Most opportunities to engage back with a happy or unhappy client are lost within a 48-hour period, and could be lost within as little as one hour, depending on the user. They have simply moved on by then.”
Whereas many companies decide to stay off of social media altogether rather than risk a wave of angry posts, Larrauri sees missed opportunities: “The reality is the conversations are going to happen whether or not a brand/company ignores them. It is better to cultivate those conversations and turn any negative comments into opportunities.”
When asked the best way to approach a customer social media complaint, Larrauri responded: “When we have a client whose customer complains on Facebook or Twitter, we suggest responding with an acknowledgement that they’ve heard the user and direct them to be contacted offline. Most issues are too long or difficult to be worked out on a Facebook wall and many “complainers” are soothed by a friendly voice on the phone. After that contact is made, we suggest thanking the user for their feedback.”
The lesson here, including for young professionals and companies new to the social media pool, is to approach Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as an opportunity to better connect with customers and improve client relations, even where clients have complaints or grievances. Having procedures in place for handling clients on social media helps, and just because a company lacks a dedicated social media employee does not mean it cannot service customers and cultivate relationships. Where some companies see a gamble to invite negative comments, other companies see a golden opportunity to take customer engagement to the next level.
Pedram Tabibi is an attorney at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone. He can be reached on Twitter @PedramTabibi or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.