Controlling Negative Publicity Via Social Media

TelephoneAnyone who's taken a basic marketing class knows that word of mouth marketing, while severely limited in reach, has the highest rate of conversions. When we advertise our own business, potential customers suspect that any claims that we make may very well be exaggerated or outright false. After all, it's in our own best interest to speak well of the product or service we're selling. However, when a trusted friend or family member praises a product or service, you as a customer are much more likely to believe them without reservations. They have nothing to gain if you buy from the business or not, so what reason would they have to inflate the truth or make unrealistic claims?

One of the amazing by-products of Social media is that it has extended the reach of word of mouth marketing. A simple comment about how incredible your product is may have reached a handful of ears in the past. Now, a single comment can potentially reach thousands instantly. Of course, this is a double edged sword and negative comments can spread just as quickly as positive ones and cause immediately destructive if left unchecked. However, publicity is publicity and if caught quickly and handled properly and honestly, destructive comments can be turned around in your favor.


I purchased a laptop from BestBuy back in 2008. Less than four months later, the laptop stopped charging as a result of a faulty soldering job in the power inlet. I took the laptop in to get repaired since I had purchased a three year service plan from BestBuy as well. When the laptop returned, instead of the motherboard being replaced to repair the issue, they HardDrive had been completely wiped out. Furious, I told my Twitter followers what a inexcusable and amateurish mistake BestBuy's staff had made. They hadn't fixed the issue at all, but instead decided to delete everything on my hard drive. I warned my followers to not purchase a service plan from them.

That day, an employee of the local BestBuy tweeted back to me assured me that they wanted to help resolve the issue. Within the same day, I exchanged a few tweets with this local, social media rep, received emails from the manager, and then phone calls. While they were not able to recover my hard drive, they showed a great deal of interest in making it up to me. Long story short, they took what would have been damaging to their business and turned it around into a very positive, public display. They appeared to take personal interest in their customers and their satisfaction with Bestbuy products and demonstrated that if there was a discrepancy they would be very pro-active in making it up to the customer. They handled the situation with amazing professionalism.

It is becoming more and more common for businesses to re-task or hire a relatively technical, social butterfly to manage their social media presence and run damage control. While they may be called anything from Social Media Representatives to Social Directors,  they ultimately abide by the same guidelines and fulfill the same function.

Having a social media rep. does not replace you as an employee or business owner taking the time to build meaningful relationships on the same social networks from your personal account. People want to see who's behind the business and this brings your company valuable exposure. Your social media rep's primary function is damage control. Exposure is secondary. You should represent a personality behind the business, while the social media rep represents the business itself.

Like any other position, you don't want to simply unleash a new hire into the workplace and let them take it from there. It is not difficult to exacerbate reputation damaging situations online, or outright cause them, so clear guidelines should be laid out from the start. Having a social media policy that applies to all of your employees is a must. Below, we've given you an example policy. Feel free to use it as is or modify it to your purposes.


Download Sample Social Media Guidelines


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Nicholas Clayton has been with us since Friday, 09 October 2009.

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