16 FEB 2010 0
Social Media can provide an audience that you can advertise to or build your brand with for much less cost than more traditional forms of advertising, but there can be drawbacks. For instance, take a look at FutureShop's Facebook Page: Click Here. Their page has over 68,000 fans... that's great, right? Well, maybe and maybe not... there are certainly real and tangible benefits that come with promoting your business to an audience of that size, but it appears not everyone is really a "fan".
As I write this, almost 20% of the posts on the first page of their wall are negative in nature. Kudos to FutureShop for not simply deleting anything negative said about their company, as one might expect they would. Even though that would be the easy way out, it'd probably be more damaging the the long run. While it does seem that they are trying to address and resolve each complaint individually, it appears some are being missed or ignored. Compounding this issue is how Facebook displays responses to wall posts on their page. By default all responses are hidden, with a small link at the bottom of the post that says "View Feedback (x)" where x is the number of responses that post has received. So unless a visitor or fan clicks that view feedback button, they may not even be aware that FutureShop is attempting to resolve any of the complaints at all!
I'm not trying to scare you off of Social Media, but one thing you must understand and be prepared for if you're going to engage in social media is that you will not have 100% control... but you might just learn a thing or two about your business and how others perceive it. Take FutureShop for example: being a bit of a geek myself, I have dealt with FutureShop as a company for many years (well over a decade) and in that time I've learned that the typical modus operandi of the store managers is to treat unhappy customers rather poorly unless a complaint is put into the general manager or FutureShop Corporate itself (at which point they will turn on a dime and bend over backward to make sure you're happy). While there are exceptions to the rule, I've seen this pattern of behaviour repeatedly for quite some time. I don't know FutureShop's internal policies as I'm nothing more than a customer, but if I had to guess, I would imagine that the thinking behind this policy (if it even is a policy... who knows, it could just be the natural development of their customer service due to any number of factors) would be that if people don't complain to a higher level in the company, they probably won't complain to anyone else.
Because of how FutureShop has embraced Facebook, it is becoming much easier for unhappy customers to complain publicly, and making a process easier will always result in more people fulfilling that process, which in this case is translating into more and more complaints for FutureShop. It will be interesting to see if an increase in complaints will affect business on a large scale, perhaps prompting an overall change to the view towards customer service.
So remember, while social media can be great for your business, don't forget you are essentially standing up in front of a crowd and - just like in real life - it is possible (and easy) for your company to be publicly embarrassed.
In our next social media post, we'll look at the best practices and steps you can take to ensure your company doesn't become the butt of a social media joke.