Ok, maybe not death, but impact to your business. In a previous article I wrote about the fake likes, followers, and building a false perception in social media, and now for some more of the dark side.
Word of mouth is fast, but word of tweets is faster. How many times have celebrities been reported to have died via an R.I.P. trending topic on Twitter? Get a major social networker tweeting about a bad experience with your company and product and it could impact sales significantly. Even someone with just a few hundred followers or friends can spread information about your company to their network, and it could go viral. You shouldn't discount anyone on social media outlets, address their concerns promptly, your communication with them becomes public so handle your responses wisely.
Misleading or false reviews posted by competitors. I see a lot of this on the local level, for example many sites like Google, or Yahoo have local company listings where customers can post reviews of the companies. I know one instance where the competing company posted a very bad review about a company, they didn't even take the effort to hide their user name which contained the name of the company. Even though this was obvious to the company, it may not be obvious to a potential customer who is using the search engine as a means to determine who to do business with. Keep an eye open for this type of social media manipulation.
Employees spilling the beans. Does your company have a policy on social networking? It might be something you should consider. In a competitive business environment an employee may inadvertently spill the beans on some trade secrete about your product or service. Also, how does your employee represent themselves online? In their profile they may be broadcasting that their employee of your company, but maybe the behave in a way that some might find objectionable. It may impact your company in a variety of ways, potential employees, customers, etc, may wonder what kind of folks do you hire?
Just plain wrong posts to take advantage of a trending topic - Some companies have no clue when it comes to posting on social media and will use events happening in the news to promote their products. Don't figure you'll take advantage of a trending tag and post it on tweet to get more exposure. Some companies have taken deaths, court verdicts, starving children, and other trending topics and attached to them to their posts. It doesn't work, and can be taken not in the way it was intended. Have several people review the post if there is doubt. You don't need thousands of folks tweeting you saying how wrong you were for posting that tweet.
Automated tweets - I see this a lot, where you tag a post, and then all of the sudden someone retweeted it just because they're using some automated bot to keyword search a post. You might not want to retweet every post with a phrase in it, can it be used in a way you don't agree with? Maybe someone just wants to mess around with you and see what happens.
More power to the people - The social web is growing and there is no way a company can ignore it. If you build up a social community for your site, and leaders arise, they also obtain power and influence. Say you have that MVP in your online community, and they object to a company move, or policy, how are you going to address it? They're not employees and aren't under policy, even if you remove the posts, that will most likely anger them, and they could use other outlets like Twitter, to voice their opinion.
Some companies directly involve social networkers, and the power players in their online community in the company strategy. Companies that recognize social networking, use it effectively in communicating with their customers. There's nothing preventing you from recognizing those leaders, getting them involved in the direction of products and services (have them sign a non-disclosure agreement for that coveted MVP designation so you have some legal course to take if things go wrong).
The main thing to succeed in the social web is to create a plan to address issues as they arise. Be responsive if something does happen. Many companies today hire full time social networking professionals to manage online outreach, it may be something to consider.
Good luck and keep tweeting!
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