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  • Writer's pictureCrisis Shield

Social media the new WOM

By James Fitzpatrick

Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. In this day and age, almost everyone has at least one social media account – a Sensis 2015 Report found that around 70% of Australians use some form of social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In just a few clicks, a person can publish a review, experience or photo of a company to a global audience. This means the way in which a company responds to customer or client feedback, reviews and complaints across all mediums is extremely important for successful brand and reputation management.

Online leading platforms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zomato (previously Urbanspoon) have shown the importance of word of mouth when consumers are deciding on a restaurant, accommodation or a particular service/product. Sites such as these can benefit both the consumer and the business.

Positive online word of mouth (WOM) is essentially free advertising for a company – a positive review online has the ability to reach thousands of other people through the person’s social network.

A 2014 Neilsen study shows that people are more likely to believe word of mouth recommendations than paid for advertising, because they believe customers/clients are a more credible and trustworthy source than a company’s advertising.

Although online word of mouth can be a great way for a company to attract business, it can also bring about the opposite outcome. One online negative review or experience published by a customer can go viral within minutes and have an adverse affect on a company’s brand.

The way a business responds to negative online word of mouth is fundamental to successful brand management. Not responding at all to criticism can have more of an impact on your brand than the negative comment itself.

How a company communicates on social media channels during a time of crisis is crucial to brand preservation. Many different root causes can escalate into crises, for example, a negative review gone viral, or a threat of violence against the company. If a company does not respond appropriately – or at all – to a seedling issue on its social media channels, the issue can quickly gain wider attention and traction, and grow into a crisis.

For example, US based manufacturing company Smucker’s came under fire for not responding to customers’ negative comments but also opting to delete them. Customers felt the company was ignoring and dismissing their problems, which intensified their anger. An issue that could have been managed and contained swiftly, turned into a storm for the company.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, and a commonly unsuccessful issue-management approach. A Sprout Social study found 90% of messages sent to brands go unanswered. Ignoring or dismissing customer complaints can damage the company’s brand and cause customers to switch brands.

However, having a social media strategy, issue management procedures, and a crisis communication plan can help your company deal appropriately with dissatisfied customers and manage outcomes from word of mouth online.

Briggs Communications offers detailed crisis communication plans and reputation management services to assist your company.

Call us today for your free consultation or see how Briggs Communications could prepare your company’s social media accounts for a crisis.


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