If you’ve ever had a conversation with a client who doesn’t understand social media, you know convincing them of its importance can be extremely challenging. Clients are hesitant to embrace social media for several reasons, one of which is because anyone can publicly create negative content online about the client’s company. If enough recent negative content exists online and the company isn’t constantly creating its own positive content, then guess what shows up on the first page of Google when you search said company’s name? You got it…a whole bunch of negative content related to that company.
Brandon Chesnutt talked about this topic during his Detroit Regional Chamber Maverick Marketing Monday presentation at the Detroit Zoo yesterday. Today, I came across a perfect example of how negative online content is ruling search results for one Michigan company.
You can get all the details from this Kalamazoo Gazette article, but essentially a Western Michigan University student created a “Kalamazoo Residents Against T&J Towing” Facebook group after a not-so-pleasant experience with the company. The group now has 10,900 members. Combine the group number with what members are posting on the page and the comments from the K-Gazette article, and it’s obvious T&J has upset PLENTY of customers in the past.
T&J’s president has filed a lawsuit, which the WMU student has answered and counterclaimed, so this is now one huge legal mess.
Here’s the real “oh crap” part of the story for T&J. I tried different search queries for T&J, and the first few pages of results are all filled with negative content about the company, mainly related to the WMU student’s Facebook page. The results also included Yelp and Yahoo review pages that included mostly negative reviews about T&J.
Can you guess what’s missing from the search results list? A T&J website. So imagine you live in Kalamazoo and for whatever reason you’ve yet to get clued in on the WMU student’s Facebook rebuttal against T&J. You need the services of a local towing company, and you know T&J is close to your house. You go to your trusty friend Google to learn more about the company, and all you find is negative content and reviews about the company. Unless you enjoy giving your hard earned dollars to companies with a bad rep, you will immediately scratch T&J off your “companies to do business with” list.
This is a PR nightmare and an example of how social media can kick your company in the butt. I assume T&J cannot discuss this online because it’s now a legal issue.
But, if one of your clients is ever faced with a similar situation and the negative information online is inaccurate, you could recommend the client do one of several things. If it’s a blog post, the CEO can comment to show he’s listening, and then reach out to the blogger privately (probably through e-mail) to further address what upset the blogger. A company can issue a news release or use its own social networks (blog, Twitter, Facebook) to let people know that what’s being said isn’t true. It’s important clients understand they can’t remove online content if they didn’t create it, but there are several ways to respond to, and hopefully fix, this type of situation.
The bottom line is this: If the negative online content about your company is true, then you have a business problem, not a social media problem. Social media has given customers the power to share what they think about companies and brands online, which is why customer service is the new marketing. If you are not doing everything possible to make your customers happy and provide the most quality service/products possible, then your business is destined to fail. And all the online tools and PR in the world won’t save it.