Social media has been a turning point for the marketing world. Overtime, brands have learnt that being social is important. It can help them acquire new customers, create communities of brand lovers and get useful insights and feedbacks. A brand’s availability 24×7 has become important and appreciative. Everyone wants to be the next Zomato on social media, always coming out with new puns and interesting campaigns, witty replies to comments and keeping their users engaged. But all is not well with being visible on social media 24*7. It has increased the aspect of being reviewed negatively online and with millions of consumers actively checking social media posts and comments, even a single negative comment can give their competitors an edge. Add to this what all social media marketing books preach- ignoring negative comments is the worst marketing strategy a brand could apply.
In this light, compensating a customer for a negative comment so as to avoid further escalation has become a common practice. Many brands tend to centralize on immediate crisis communication – allowing users to get away by tossing them a cookie and not thinking about the future repercussions of this action. Generalising this behavior has made it an easy way for people to grab freebies from brands by holding them ransom to a negative review. Just like there are discount hunters out there, there are now people on social media who continuously complain about a product or a service just to be compensated by a company. What brands need to realize is that rewarding a negative commentator to safeguard their image is quick fix and not a lasting solution.
Having worked as an entrepreneur with different brands from Europe and the U.S, I have learnt that this strategy of incentivizing negative consumer conduct has trained customers to indulge in a behavior that brands really don’t want to encourage but also don’t know how to change – it’s like giving into a crying baby’s demand. My last discussion with a few of my clients in the West made me realize that this behavior of brands has led to huge problems. A former Senior Director of one of the largest telcos in Sweden lamented that they had many times compensated customers just to get them to stop bashing the company on their social media and many a times it felt like it was a never ending flood which made them forget that there were people out there who actually loved their products.
Companies need to shift focus from dowsing online fires to encouraging and rewarding positive consumer behavior. They need to make sure that everyone of their customers know that a positive comment will be rewarded even more than a negative one. Building a community that can be your voice is the best way to combat the negativity on social media. Using rewards as a way of showing appreciation and love to customers who post good things about the brand and interesting content can help build “brand advocates” who in the future would come to the brand’s defense when someone might initiate damaging criticism.
The gist is that no social media strategy is perfect. You’re bound to receive some negative reviews every now and then. Learning how to handle them the right way can help you minimize the issues that they can cause for your business. Indian companies still have time to learn from their Western counterparts that burnt their hands already, review their social media behavior and crisis communication strategies and utilize these learnings to enforce positive behavior amongst their consumer base.