More than ever, folks are abandoning traditional venting venues like company Web sites and call centers to air complaints in the wider Web. Whether it makes them feel better or they actually get responses from companies, they are turning to blogs, discussion forums and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Loraine Lawson, IT Business Edge's integration expert extraordinaire, did exactly that a few months ago, posting a frustrated message about her Internet issues on a discussion forum after spending many hours on the phone trying to reslove the problem. In her case, it worked. She got her broadband back.
Salesforce.com is obviously hip to this trend, having introduced a tool that lets its users monitor, search and respond directly to comments on Twitter Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and other social media, directly from the Salesforce.com system. Other vendors have followed suit with similar products.
But do companies really need to worry about all of this online bitching? SiliconValleyWatcher's Tom Foremski doesn't think so. His point:
... If those conversations take place in real-time, they are done and dusted by the time a corporation decides to become involved. I asked how many people review their real-time streams of content on Facebook or Twitter? Which means if something nasty was said the likelihood is that very few people saw it -- only those that happened to be looking at their streams at that particular time would have seen it.
While I largely agree with Foremski, what about those times when Tweets or other communications go viral? This is a particular issue with Twitter, as I wrote last month in discussing the flap over Amazon's alleged censorship of material involving homosexuality. By using a hashtag, folks on Twitter can give a story surprisingly long legs, even in the chaotic and crowded environment of a real-time data feed. And of course, the laggards in the traditional media will sometimes pick it up and write or broadcast about it.
Amazon is mentioned in this BusinessWeek story, which also includes Domino's woes associated with a YouTube video of two employees doing disgusting things to food they said would be served to customers. According to the story, the video was viewed more than a million times within two days, and a Google search for "Dominos" conducted four days later yielded multiple references to the video, including one in the third-highest spot. (That's changed, as I had difficulty uncovering references to it on Google.) While Domino's responded with a YouTube video message of its own from president of Domino's USA, it was viewed only about 66,000 times in the first 24 hours.
Even if you agree with Foremski (and Mark Cuban, who shares a similar viewpoint in a blog maverick post called Who Cares What People Write?), I think it's a good idea for companies to do a little advance planning that can save them some grief in the event of a Domino's-like situation. The BusinessWeek article has some good tips from B.L. Ochman, a well-regarded social media expert who, embarrassingly, I once incorrectly assumed was a man: