Marketing has historically been a godsend for lousy companies. With an effective marketing team, even the surliest, most incompetent and inattentive companies could create an illusion of excellence, caring and success.
They could write a powerful and inspirational mission statement professing their devotion to essential core values and tout their commitment to clients and community.
In a word, they could lie.
They were able to craft their own deceit because there was no simple, inexpensive and effective way for any single customer to counter their message. What’s a wronged airline passenger to do when the airline bumps you from a flight, loses your luggage or confines you for hours on a frozen tarmac? Before social media, you simply had to take it.
Grudgingly, angrily and frustratingly you simply had no ability to counter the beatific corporate message.
If there’s any aspect of your business that sucks, you can expect these deficiencies to be magnified, not eliminated, through the effective deployment of social media.
While many large companies believe that they can continue to manage and control their message through social media channels, they’re in for a rude awakening. The explosion of social media platforms and their rapid embrace as a tool of retribution by an increasingly savvy and knowledgeable public means that they control your message, not you.
Want proof? United Airlines – with annual revenues of $17 billion and a massive marketing budget – could not control their corporate message when confronted by a single implacable passenger with a broken guitar. When Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician, could not get satisfaction from United for their baggage handlers breaking his guitar he wrote a clever song, shot a video and posted United Breaks Guitars to YouTube where it has accumulated over seven million views and nearly 25,000 negative comments from similarly disgruntled passengers.
While Dave Carroll’s effort received international attention, there are thousands of similar stories emerging every day on blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Legitimately unhappy customers who are simply fed up with poor service, lousy products and an uncaring or inattentive company and who decide to let everyone know exactly how rotten you are.
Social media has permanently shifted the balance of power from deep pocketed corporations to passionate and sophisticated social media participants. Got flaws? You’d better fix them.