Crying Wolf on the Social Web

by Sean Wood on June 13, 2011 · 0 comments

in Blog

Cry Wolf graffiti in Berlin

Photo Credit: bixentro

You know how some people always have something to complain about?  You know what I’m talking about — that person that never seems to have anything good going in their life and always wants to tell you what stinks? Well besides being a real drain to be around, people eventually stop listening to their complaints.

The same holds true on the social web.  When I visit to Yelp or Amazon and see a nasty review in the midst of otherwise positive reviews, I will click on that person’s profile to see what’s going on.  I’ve found that these reviewers usually fall into one of three profiles:

1.   Negative Nelly: Has a long history of negative feedback.  No restaurant or product has ever met their satisfaction.
Advice: This person has other things going on in their life.  Ignore this Review.

2.   Anonymous Joe: Leaves a single negative review but has no other reviews in their profile.  Most likely, this is a competitor or angry ex-employee trying to make the company look bad.
Advice: This fake profile was created an anonymous troublemaker.  Ignore this Review.

3.  Happy Herman: Leaves mostly positive reviews.  They may have a few negative reviews, but overall they have established credibility and seem pretty reasonable.  This helpful person likes to recommend products that they like and want to warn people when their experience isn’t good.   All-in-all this is a pretty trustworthy reviewer.
Advice: Pay attention to this Review.

For the Customer:

Think back to Aesop’s Fable about The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  This parable explains that when you tell stories that aren’t true, people eventually stop listening to you.  The same holds true in social media. It’s been proven that after a while, people filter out constant negativity because they no longer want to listen to the voice of the complainer.

Social media has made a powerful impact on our lives.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s still pretty new and most people haven’t figured out how to behave yet. Many cultural norms (and manners) are not yet fully developed.  So please keep in mind that whatever you’re doing now will stay on your ‘permanent’ digital record and will affect you from here on out.

However, if you’re really upset and have a legitimate complaint, then by all means… go out and create a funny YouTube video that tells the story of your trouble.  You never know – you may find yourself becoming internet famous.

Advice: When in doubt, think about what your grandma would say and “mind your manners.”   Keep it simple.  Offer good input where you can — make helpful suggestions and offer fair warnings so that other people know what to expect. Hopefully (if the company is listening) the problem will be fixed.

For the Brand:

First of all…. don’t let your fear of a negative review keep you from doing something that will benefit your customers and your business.  According to a Yahoo! Study “66% of brand references in WOM conversations are positive and only 8% are negative.” Although this is a small percentage, we can reduce that number even more with an effective social strategy that outlines how to respond to unsatisfied customers.

BazaarVoice claims that ”Most word of mouth is positive. Across all Bazaarvoice US clients, 80% of product ratings are 4 or 5 stars out of 5.”   So when Freeworld implements social media monitoring platforms for our clients, the software pulls in open data streams from the social web to filter word-of-mouth conversations.  Sentiment analysis helps us determine what’s being said and in what context.  Please make sure that your community manager is well-trained and highly capable to handle these situations.

Social CRM & Priority Levels

How much weight do you give people’s feedback?  This is a new area, so most likely you don’t have the time, the staff or the budget to handle all the social media information coming into your organization.  So what should do with these reviews?  Having a solid social media process will optimize your time and help you determine the best response.

As we look ahead, what we’re seeing is that different priority levels should be applied. Suggesting that web users deserve different responses can be controversial, but just as in “real life”, some people are more influential than others and you should be more attentive to them.  Companies should be asking, “How will this person’s level of service impact their social network?”

Please take a look at several of the well-documented Social CR case studies to understand how to best manage customer relationships. Your response may be based on what happened in the past but this is like driving by watching the rearview mirror.  Soon we will be able to look ahead at people’s response to our corporate communications.

The social web gives us a powerful way to connect with each other.  Both customers and businesses need to be considerate about what they say and how they say it.

So what do you think… Got any constructive feedback? :)