Are brands too sensitive? Should they be wary of opening themselves up to negative feedback on social channels, or take the risk in the hopes of deeper engagement with customers?
A disturbing element of online behavior has real consequence for marketers who wish to be open with consumers. We recently discussed several social strategies for creating a more active dialog with important audiences. We got all excited about the benefits of hearing unvarnished feedback and being able to discuss issues with people in a forum where they would be comfortable being straight with us, and which could then open up more in depth conversations in other channels.
Then we started to look at some of the recent examples of others trying to do the same thing.
Are brands too sensitive? Is Coke pulling an ad due to the comments of a few bloggers an example of good listening or is it victimization by bullies? It certainly seems anonymity makes us meaner. I find it very troubling that people are so mean on social and digital media, when generally, people are pretty polite in person or in channels where the individual is recognized and would like to be taken seriously. We seem to have lost our collective manners and sense of respect, and even go further by celebrating the people who take things to a low level, even when those negative claims are not substantiated in fact.
The result is that marketers who truly do want to give audiences a voice, are hesitant to do so because it's so distasteful to participate. Sure, you could just tell me to grow a spine about this, and suck it up because the good of the open, anonymous Internet outweighs the bad. I believe that to be true, but I also know that convincing executives that they should take seriously these channels as brand engagement opportunities is increasingly hard when there is so much childish behavior. When social participants speak in respectful tones - even when you have constructive criticism or a legitimate gripe - then more marketers will be willing to listen for real - and not just as a one-time PR campaign.
One forum where people seem to act like adults (for the most part) is on Reddit, where your reputation is visible and provides benefits for influence and reach. Conversations on this forum are much more respectful, although by no means gentle. There is real debate and lots of heated discussion. That is what brands need - honest and real feedback from mature people who will actually stand behind their comments. Twitter and even LinkedIn are so anonymous that it's easy to leave manners behind.
How are you gathering social feedback and reaching out to audiences today? Feel free to be as snarky as you like in the comments below. But if you want to be taken seriously by your peers, you'll likely write it in a way that is at least respectful.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
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