A colleague of mine recently asked “Does negative social media hurt business?” An opinion was offered that there is “No such thing as bad publicity.” So . . . is any publicity, good publicity? It depends on how the company responds on whether or not it hurts the business. And you also have to look short term and long term. In the short term, the answer is for the most part yes. And it will get worse if the company ignores it until it hits the main stream media. What negative publicity is, is an opportunity to engage your customer directly. And in the Social Media world, a negative comment or post can turn into a full blown crisis if ignored.
The first thing a company must do is listen. Monitor their brand or product in the Social Media world. Not all negative comments need to be responded to, but they at least need to be known that they exist. This is customer feedback that most companies pay a significant amount of money to know from professional customer feedback marketing groups. And by monitoring, they can get this information much cheaper, even free.
Now that the company knows the negative comment exists, they need to decide how to respond. Or even if a response is required, (it usually is). In most cases, by simply acknowledging that the company is aware of the issue and working to correct it or some other simple response, is enough to defuse the potential situation. It is also important to respond in the medium that the complaint originated. For example, Domino’s had a horrible Social Media PR crisis that went to mainstream media in 2009. A bad video was posted on YouTube. Domino’s was not only slow to respond, but they initially tried to respond through traditional channels, a press release. They finally got it right and uploaded a video response by the CEO. And even better, they named it exactly like the original video with the addition of “Domino’s Responds.” This allowed the response video to be easily found when people continued to search for the original video.
Human beings are inherently forgiving. And we know we all make mistakes. If the company acknowledges the mistake, keeps people informed of their actions as they attempt to correct the mistake (be transparent), and after final solution has been implemented recap the entire event for educational purposes, then they can actually improve their Social Media image (and off-line image). Jay Baer & Amber Naslund cover this topic more in depth in Chapter 6 (Building a Fire Extinguisher) of their new book, “The Now Revolution: 7 shifts to make your business faster, smarter and more social.” (Great book by the way.)
In this brave new virtual world, I think the key is listening (monitoring) about your brand and being able to respond quickly. So to answer the question: YES, negative social media events can hurt your business in the short term, and NO, negative social media events can be a good thing in the long term.