People are talking about you. No matter who you are or what you do, if you’re in the public eye, someone is talking about you. In a perfect world, they only have good things to say, but the hard truth is that at least some percentage of what’s said about you (or your company) at any given time will be bad.
Sometimes very bad.
This year, GoDaddy ran yet another oversexed Super Bowl ad, and some viewers were once again offended. But thanks to the instant “zeitgeist tracking” that happens using social media tools like Twitter, people were not only sharing their displeasure, but GoDaddy competitor Network Solutions was able to use all that negativity to their advantage, urging current GoDaddy customers to shift their hosting duties to Network Solutions as a (profitable) sign of protest.
So what’s a company to do? How can you manage negative publicity when social media allows messaging to travel so wide and so quickly?
When Dell was getting trashed by Jeff Jarvis due to their horrible customer service, they got the message and, as part of the solution, created a blog to better connect with their customers (and help stave off the ill effects of Jarvis’s negative tidal wave).
ComcastCares is how Comcast uses Twitter to answer customers’ questions (and manage customer expectations).
Ford’s one-man social media machine, Scott Monty, personally corrects and rebuts any misleading or misinformed Twitter discussions about Ford and their vehicles by providing links to relevant info and statistics.
Even public servants are getting into the game. When ticket-holding visitors were barred from attending the inauguration during the “Purple Tunnel of Doom” snafu, they used Facebook as a way to rally and demand satisfaction — and at least one official who’s taking responsibility for that mistake actually joined Facebook specifically to apologize to the group publicly.
It’ll be interesting to see how this GoDaddy “snafu” shakes out, since one undeniable side effect of all the negative publicity is that people are still, for better or worse, talking about GoDaddy. But since you can also never truly control what people will say about your brand, the next-best thing you can do is engage those people who feel negatively about your brand directly. Find out what’s causing their negative opinion. Is it a problem you can fix? Is it a case of misinformation, or under-information, that you can improve?
Instead of arguing about why you’re right, use these instances as opportunities to learn what you or your company could be doing better. Because the only thing worse than people talking badly about your company is people not talking about your company at all.
Image by neoliminal.