The Power of Social Networks

This is the fifth in a series about Social Networks

Daily, I read blogs from a variety of sources.  A powerful demonstration of the reach and impact of the Internet and social networking came into play last week from two different sources, Harvard Business Publishing and Security Bloggers Network. The two blogs and their references relate to brand, image and customer service. As I have discussed before, forward-looking companies view customer service as part of their marketing department.

The first was a blog from by Bill Taylor on Harvard Business Publishing, about Amazon’s acquisition of Zappos. After commenting on Amazon’s acquisition, Bill talks about Zappos. He reports on how the culture at Zappos allowed them to handle a problem with a bereaved customer in an outstanding fashion. (The customer’s blog “I Heart Zappos” by Zaz Lamarr, has been quoted and cited by many as an example of Zappo’s customer service) The Zappos culture has helped them develop a loyal customer base, and according to Bill made them an attractive acquisition candidate.

The second was a blog from Alex Eckelberry of Sunbelt Software, directing me to a YouTube video by musician David Carroll, on how United Airlines broke his guitar while his band was on tour, and how they refused to handle his complaint. For United, the scary thing is that over 3,719,000+ people have viewed this video. (The video was also mentioned on CNN and MSNBC) Now, 3.7+ Million people are a lot of flyers. 197,000+ viewers have watched a subsequent video, where Dave talks about how United has offered compensation for his broken guitar…not a winning ratio of negative to possibly positive.

Two postings, one positive by Zaz, one negative by Dave and both picked up by subsequent bloggers, in my case Bill and Alex. The originals have had a far-reaching impact and both were developed out of the “control” of the respective companies. The lesson to take away from this juxtaposition is that customers today have significant, far-reaching, economic power. They can, and have as illustrated, boost or tear down your company, image, or brand

Up until recently, complaints or bouquet letters came into a company via snail mail or the phone. A pleased or disgruntled customer told his or her circle friends how they were treated by the company. Today, the Internet and social networks allow for the posting of good and bad, to millions of readers/viewers, all of whom are potential customers.

The questions that companies should be asking themselves are:

· How well are we dealing with our customers and customer base?

· Are we monitoring the Internet and social networks for comments about us?

· What is our response policy and procedure in the event something negative (or positive) is said?

· Are we “literate” enough to respond in kind, i.e., if the posting is a blog, do we blog, if it is on YouTube, do we know how to post on YouTube, etc.?

What would you do if someone posted a negative video on YouTube about your company, or a positive blog on their web site? Are you prepared for the long-term implications and fallout?

RHM 7/27/2009

2 comments to The Power of Social Networks

  • Dick

    Another positive case is Southwest, when they responded to many request to list schedules way in advance. I think social networking can have major positive impacts on a company if they are first customer oriented.

  • This is a great article! Companies need to discover the immense power that social media now has on their overall reputation. Information spreads like a virus on the Internet now, good and bad. Companies that are likely to be talked about must have someone responsible for finding and controlling the buzz somehow. There are new positions called Social Phone Operators who basically find and listen to customer feedback and then engage in conversations with the consumers to develop positive relationships. Watch out PR, here comes a whole new way to deal with public reactions!

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