Social media: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

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I bought something from Groupon a while back, and I now wished to God I hadn’t. It cemented in my world view that most companies (as with all things, there are exceptions), despite their rhetoric otherwise, really don’t care all that much about their customers or their experience. All they want is a fast buck. A quick dollar. Profit before people.

And I have found companies on social media (generally speaking) are making things worse for customers in many instances, not better. They pretend that they are all kinds of caring on Twitter and Facebook  (because their presence implies they are) but the reality is they don’t care all that much at all. Their social media is staffed by people who are basically there to tow the company line. Rather than solve problems, they spew forth platitudes. Urgh. There is nothing worse than a patronising email when you have a problem and want it solved. Groupon, I’m looking specifically at you.

The thing is: just because a company can use social media, doesn’t mean it should. Unless the business is committed – really committed – to both engage in proper conversations with their customers and actively solve problems, they are better off not even bothering with social media. There is nothing worse than being ignored on Twitter or Facebook when you have a legitimate complaint. I’m looking at you again, Groupon.

PR Daily says it best:

This should go without saying, but brands that live in social spaces must have explicit plans for elevating serious customer service issues. They should also have plans for monitoring so that these situations can be immediately addressed.

Social media puts companies under the microscope. It is a barometer for how customer-centric a business is. Businesses that fail on social media fail in a very public manner, irrespective of how responsive they are. And what these businesses don’t get is that social media is like word of mouth on steroids. Forums, comments on Facebook pages and Twitter searches tell me exactly what it’s like to deal with your company. No amount of advertising will tell me what your after-sales service or returns process is really like. Customers will. Because they can. Because they have experienced it and are more likely to tell me the truth.

Customers own communication channels now. Businesses don’t. Those businesses that intuitively understand this concept – and capitalise on it – will thrive. Those that don’t will sink quicker than you can say: “Groupon Fail”.

Viva the revolution.

PS – If you are interested, Social Media Today has a nice commentary on why Groupon’s business model is flawed.  And an example of Groupon fail from a vendor’s point of view: the Great Cupcake Debacle.

0 thoughts on “Social media: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

  1. Good post, but I don’t think we’re yet at the point when mainstream consumers check a brand’s social media reputation before they purchase. Rather, we use social media to vent our frustration after an unsatisfactory experience. So social media is largely about discouraging repeat purchase and word-of-mouth referral at present.

    That said, it’s only a matter of time before we do begin checking social media reputation before making a purchase decision, and hopefully by then, more AU brands may have learned how to use social media to improve their customer experience, not expose it for the sham it often is.

    1. To clarify: it’s not about customers checking the social media reputation of a brand; it’s about customers checking on brands and businesses before they make a purchasing decision. Customers want to ensure that they get the best possible experience (if price isn’t an issue), and social media is making that possible because it’s enabling conversations and connections that just weren’t really possible until relatively recently.

  2. From a business point of view, you have to be in a particular industry to have Groupon/Scoopon/Those websites work for you – and cupcakes are definitely not the right one! Cake place near my house shut down in November, and when we were there last we saw a sign about their groupon – obviously a last ditch attempt to get repeat customers and it backfired.

    1. Completely agree. Deals should be part of an integrated marketing communication strategy (although they really don’t encourage brand loyalty, just customers looking for cheap stuff) not the strategy.

  3. It’s like what Adam went through with Vodafail. He was just one of hundreds complaining to their twitter account. In the end it was they actually did the right thing by him and let him out of his contract, where he went to Telstra and now couldn’t be happier.
    But you see Vodafail constantly tweeting about their cricket promo’s and the like and all we keep thinking was that they could be using their money better by fixing their services!

    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean, Kel. I got soooo mad with Groupon for posting stupid, inane and pointless questions on their Facebook page when customers were clearly not happy and wanted their issues addressed!

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