Timely to the on-going social web training sessions we are conducting, recent development in the local blogosphere provided us a good case study. The situation raised debates  as to blogger-advertiser relationship and blogger ethics, I will not dwell on that, however. The purpose of this blog is to just illustrate the  power of social web. Below is a case worth studying:

A new media person [blogger] was invited to an event, together with traditional press and high profile personalities. If you have organized or managed an event before, you know that glitches do happen. While most of the horror stories we experience remain private, this blogger chose to share her experience “online” because it involves  “alleged” rudeness by a staff of the organizer.

The story became viral and it was passed around drawing various reactions and suggestions from those concern. It also made it’s presence in  Facebook.

As of this writing, there was supposedly a scheduled meeting between the principal and the blogger to take place anytime soon.

pls. note that story on the side of the organizer is not presented yet

A meeting took place and a closure of the issue has been made.

Both camps cried foul.

The blogger and her friends believed new media enthusiasts should not be invited just to receive a cold treatment, an insinuation that new media people are 2nd class citizens. On the opposite camp, they believed the blogger should have settled the matter privately and not blogged about the incident for the world to know. Specially, when bloggers received the freebies [in the form of dinner, GC’s, product samples, free hotel/resort accommodation. etc.] they are “almost” obliged to write positive reviews.

Because of the emotions involve, I will not intend to take sides in this issue [you can jump over to my Social Web Marketing blog if you want to know my take on the issue], instead, I want to elevate the discussion away from emotions, and discuss what companies and service providers should take note of. That is

  1. The power of social web to hurt a brand and
  2. What companies should prepare for

The Power to Hurt a Brand

In the Philippines, we have 24% internet penetration rate and more than 12M Facebook users. The blogging community are also growing rapidly. These people are customers, they buy products, avail of services and in their own right, have a considerable online following. And this “online” following has made social web powerful.

More people, trust peer feedback more than the traditional advertising and because of social web, information are passed on faster. Just imagine these people talking about your product or service? There’s supposedly no problem if customer experience is good, if bad? The brand’s online reputation will take a beating.

What Companies Should Prepare For

Acknowledge that you cannot control the actions of a unhappy client or customers, if they acted based on your preconceived notions, that’s good. But if they did not, there is not much choice except to move on and  learn the lessons. Having said that, companies should keep in mind the online reputation of the brand. The internet penetration rate is bound to increase so is the use of social web. And as the Y generation conquer the workforce, who are tech savvy and social web engaged, e-commerce will grow and socialnomics will have far greater effect on Philippines companies. With these, companies should:

  1. Recognize that guests, customers, and clients are queen. Treat them with respect because you would not know how his/her online post may do for the company [good or bad]
  2. Develop an online philosophy and social web defined code of discipline: This is to make sure online behavior of employees is defined to address future problems
  3. Use social web to find your customer: Integrate these tools in your operations
  4. Have a dedicated group to protect your online brand: Make sure negative comments online are monitored and addressed properly
  5. Put emphasis in your training and culture development the importance of customer engagement. Employees are most of the time the culprit. Train them to think and act like the principal, on the subject of customer engagement
  6. Before you dive into the world of social web, understand [and ensure your people understands too].
  7. Level expectations with bloggers before you engaged them for a project. Bloggers are not bound with a code, they will write as their conscience dictate them.

In the age of social web, companies would not know what might hit them.

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