Preparing – and Preventing – Social Media Warfare

March 31, 2010 at 7:47 AM 1 comment

Social media is still portrayed as a part of the mix – another tool for communicating with and learning about customers. And so it is. But unlike market research and advertising, social media can bite back hard. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and blogs are perfect channels for dissatisfied
customers to advertise their complaints. Or stoke anger, spread just indignation and yes, broadcast lies.

This is one very dangerous form of communication.

Nestle saw the power of this recently. In his blog Web Strategy, Jeremiah Owyang documented how Facebook became both the battlefield and the weapon for Greenpeace to attack Nestle for their treatment of the world’s rain forests. Jeremiah got it right when he wrote:

Ownership isn’t clear – yet the power belongs to community.

To which I would add: and the power is most effective when used in a negative way. In marketing as everywhere else, bad news sells.

Web Strategy’s post urges companies to prepare for attacks, which is a good idea. Just a few years ago, these kinds of battles had to be fought via the industrial media, or else on cranky websites that might or might not get discovered. Companies are learning the hard way how anyone can use free tools to attack their reputation.

But since the social media battle in question is political, let me borrow a political term: constructive engagement. You need to do more that fortify the battlements and arm the troops. The best way to forestall attacks is to deploy a clear strategy for developing an ongoing relationship with your customers.

If you’re just monitoring social media, you’re listening passively. If you’re just tweeting about special offers and new products, you’re advertising. But if you’re listening proactively, engaging customers in dialogues about their needs and the issues they care about, in a way that generates new ideas and new solutions, you’re you’re building relationships. And as any true warrior knows, the art lies in avoiding a battle – especially a battle you can’t win.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Tom H.  |  March 31, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Good post. I wonder if large brands can truly prepare for large-scale crises. But some preparation has to be better than doing nothing at all.

    Reply

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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at www.fuseinsight.com

 

"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters

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