“Social media marks the end of an era for companies. An era when controlling the message was even an option.” – Bruce Turkel

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At this point, we all know that social media is allowing people to publicly express, well… anything they want. Businesses are still in the process of adapting to this “new” social arena in which customers influence each other more than marketing messages do. In the beginning, companies worried about the ability of unsatisfied customers to voice their opinions in such a public manner. This was especially true after musician Dave Carrol’s United Breaks Guitars youtube video went viral with over 9,000,000 views. (See the story on CBS here)

But some companies are starting to “get” how to use social media. AT&T recently sent out an email to 10 million of it’s customers announcing some new upgrades and asking for comments on their facebook wall. They must have known that they would receive negative feedback, but they seem to be embracing it. According to Marketplace, they have a team of 24 people dedicated to responding to these facebook posts. Welcoming the rage of unsatisfied customers is a huge shift in the way a company can use social media. And a brilliant one! Marketing analyst, Bruce Turkel sums it up nicely:

If you don’t provide them with the wall, in this case, or any other opportunity, do you think therefore they’re going to be quiet?! People are going to get their message out whether they spray paint it on a wall — a real wall — or they type it onto a Facebook wall.

So, kudos to AT&T for using social media to encourage customers to express their dissatisfaction (or to praise the company, if they wish) and for providing a forum that the company can respond to. It is wise to acknowledge that unhappy customers will make their feelings known. This way AT&T has a chance to address the issues of their customers and creates the perception that they are listening to their concerns. If nothing else, perhaps it will prevent people from bashing AT&T on other sites. Overall, inviting and responding to criticism via social media seems to have been a smart move.

You can see the evidence of AT&T’s facebook comment response team working hard here: AT&T on Facebook

Be sure to read or listen to the Marketplace Morning Report story A lesson in AT&T’s Facebook approach.

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