Accept when you make a mistake
In June, Vodafone India sued customer Dhaval Valia after he posted a status message where he detailed his dissatisfaction with the company. Valia had also posted the numbers of two senior executives, and suggested that anyone reading should call the executives. The entire exercise generated a lot of bad publicity for the company, with many newspapers reporting the case when it happened.
Companies need to prevent fires, not put them out. Vodafone should have acknowledged there had been problems with their 3G service, and pointed out that this was a temporary issue. Instead, it sued him for defamation, and only backed down in the face of huge negative publicity on the social network and in the media.
Handle the media yourself
When the job of monitoring social media is fully outsourced, the result is a generic account that doesn’t capture the spirit of the brand, and can’t react to angry customers in a useful manner. Auto maker Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd vice-chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra runs his own Twitter account, and it’s a blend of funny quotes, personal tweets and company information. People reach out to him on Twitter with questions and feedback, and get a response either directly or from the company. This personal connection to the company is important, and has led to Mahindra having over 400,000 followers.
United Breweries Ltd head Vijay Mallya is one of the few other Indian CEOs using social media directly—his account has over 680,000 followers, and in the past he has used it to promote company activities. Recently, he has been using Twitter to defend the company reputation even as Kingfisher Airlines faces serious trouble.
If an angry customer is posting on your Facebook page or slamming your brand on Twitter, the worst thing a brand can do is ignore it. In 2005, computer maker Dell Inc. ignored a post from an influential blogger Jeff Jarvis, where he listed various problems with his machine, and a lack of customer support.
Dell did not respond and in no time at all, there were over 300 comments on the post, and it had been widely shared and reposted around the world. If Dell had responded quickly to the post, by acknowledging that it was at fault, and taking some action to address this, then it could have asked Jarvis to remove the post, and avoided the negative publicity. By staying silent, the company only made things worse for itself.
Dell’s story is particularly important because this event brought about a company-wide overhaul in terms of thinking on social media, and today, the brand runs multiple twitter accounts in various countries to give advice on sales and deals, hardware care tips, and even customer support.