Written by Shawna Polivka
It’s a fact: Consumers are heading to the Internet to discuss products and services with other consumers.
Last week I had the opportunity to experience NYC’s Social Media Week as a 2012 PivotCon attendee. Speakers included leaders in the digital world and represented companies such as Sephora, Coca-Cola and Facebook. Each speaker confirmed that all brands need to start building relationships with consumers to prevent a social media crisis from being unforgivable.
Control is gone!
Some social crises are beyond a company’s control. We’ve seen it all over the news: From the Starbucks beetle food coloring debacle protested on Facebook and blogs, to the FedEx delivery man who tossed a new computer monitor over a front yard gate that was captured by a security camera and then viewed over 8.5 million times on YouTube.
Is your brand’s relationship with the consumer strong enough to withstand a social media crisis?
Invest in relationships
Paul Adams, Global Head of Brand Design at Facebook contextualized the importance of building a relationship in advance. He reminded us that you don’t go on a first date and then get married the next day. Trust and loyalty take time. If an online relationship isn’t there when a social media crisis occurs, it becomes difficult to uphold the brand’s reputation.
The investment right now might seem fruitless, but with time, your brand’s fans will become its greatest advocates.
Control of your brand’s online conversations may be long gone, but luckily for marketers, consumers are becoming more forgiving when it comes to flaws found in online conversation.
Recently, KitchenAid came under scrutiny when the company’s Twitter representative accidentally sent a personal tweet via the company twitter handle, @KitchenAidUSA, during the presidential debate:
“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics,”
The tweet was deleted and multiple apologetic tweets were quickly sent explaining the situation:
Followers even expressed their understanding:
The key to success?
Be transparent, according to Siegel+Gale, a strategic branding firm. Its research denoted transparency as an area where social media lags most.
Paul Wilmore, Managing Director of Barclaycard, the payment business of Barclays in the US, shared a story of ultimate transparency despite a regulated industry. Wilmore used transparency and crowdsourcing in social media to define the brand’s next credit product.
Essentially, Barclaycard members have an equal say in the development of their credit card. Not only do members have the opportunity to vote on the credit card features, Barclaycard tells them how much their decision would cost them (e.g. If they want to service their card domestically, it will cost them $15 more per hour than off-shore servicing).
Brands no longer have a choice about being social. They can, however, be proactive through an online voice. They can continue the practice of building relationships by expanding into the digital and social realm, so that when a social crisis hits, they are there with an honest explanation and solution.