Damage Control: Social Media Reversals

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Corporations continue to get blindsided by social media –which of course, is just a representation of underlying customer or product issues that should be fixed. Companies respond in three ways: 1) Ignore it and do nothing at their own peril, 2) Are responsive but not necessarily in control 3) Assert themselves and be proactive –even during a crises.   The following three examples highlight companies being proactive in the third effort –and analyzes their end result.

AT&T Evangelist Softens Support Woes –For The Short Term
Large telecommunications giant AT&T has had a reputation for ineffective coverage and support –an ailment common the bigger companies get.  Recently, the iPhone community in both NYC and SF in particular have shouted out against the service and dropped calls they receive (my own company has witnessed this ourselves).  As a result, they launched Seth the Blogger Guy, in this video that addresses the conversation head on.

Danger:  Customers were mounting an online revolt by complaining about AT&T service
Action: AT&T launched an evangelist program to educate, explain with a personal touch to take on customer complaints.
Risks: Critics have blasted this effort, suggesting Seth really isn’t a blogger, and point out that he’s really a member of the PR Agency Fleishman-Hillard.
Results:  This is still unfolding but I’ll make a call anyways.  This is a PR effort designed to quell off a rebellion that we heard and are responding. Despite the good intentions, AT&T will need to fix the customer issues, or this will simply be remembered as lipstick on a pig.  Secondly, this is an opportunity for the actual engineers and technicians to become the true stars of the company –give them a platform to speak beyond the PR team.

Cisco Fatty Embarrasses Herself –Resulting in PR Cleanup
Tech giant Cisco recently made an offer to an intern in silicon valley to work in their San Jose office.  This not-so-savvy individual tweeted out “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” to her small network not realizing Cisco employees are monitoring the Twittersphere.  One replied back “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”  This spun into a media blitz, including a MSNBC article, and even Oprah calling and requesting both parties join the show.

Danger: Even would-be employees can put a brand in danger as the open conversation cascades across the web.  This young woman embarrassed herself and the company –yet in reality, her behavior is akin to Generation Y’s vocal ways.
Action: Cisco responded in an adult-like way, not trying to draw any more damage to this young woman.
Risks: Cisco’s employees who blasted back put the company at risk as ‘picking on her’ need to have an internal crises team to lean on –before responding.
Results: For Cisco, this was handled in an ideal way, and a lesson to learnt by all.  Of course, the real question needs to be answered: why would this individual hate the work?

EA Sports Counters YouTube Attack
Video game maker EA sports is not immune to product faults.  In fact, a recent Tiger Woods golfing game had a glitch that allowed Tiger to walk on water and hit the ball –in which the YouTube community dubbed the “Jesus Shot” by member Levinator25 which has nearly a million views pointing out the games flaw.

Danger: All products have faults and now they are shown directly on YouTube, and other social sites
Action: EA Sports took the critic headon, and released this ‘response’ video showing Tiger –well, doing his thing.
Risks: This was a risky move.  Not only does it highlight the games errors, but it risks embarrassing Levinator 25 and igniting futhur rebellion.
Results: This was a clever response from EA, but unfortunately, it’s not scalable.  With every product likely to have an error, companies cannot afford to have response videos with celebrities.  Instead, launch communities that empower customers to submit problems and fixes –outsourcing support and development.

The conversation is just starting, submit your own example of a company being blind-sided by social customers and how they responded shifting negative energy into positive.

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