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Responding to the Social Media Mobocracy

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No company “has” to be on Twitter, but with the low cost of entry, and the opportunity to get involved in and learn from some of these discussions (and possibly head some of them off before they become blog posts and social media failure case studies), why wouldn’t you?
This article appeared originally on Joel Postman's own website, socializedpr.com.

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You’ve probably read more than one post recently on all the great things companies are doing on Twitter. What’s less obvious are the companies that forgot to get on Twitter, or to otherwise monitor (or in some cases care about) what people are saying about them online. For those companies I have proposed My Almost Free Twitter-Based Corporate Social Media Strategy.

The idea for the article came to me as I observed a well-known truck rental company getting trashed on Twitter. (You can probably figure out which company it is, and if you-haul stuff, you’ve probably done business with them but I don’t see any benefit in naming them here.) This was more than just a rant session. These people were trying to get the company’s attention by complaining in a public forum. It was kind of an informal version of GetSatisfaction.

A company with even the most superficial presence on Twitter could have managed this situation, but instead, it just snowballed as angry consumers added their experiences and company spokespeople slept soundly at their desks.

David Alston, of Radian6, the “instigator” of the discussion, posted on this, and summed it up:

“Here we have a well-known North American brand seemingly oblivious to the goings-on in social media and to the pent up frustration with its brand.”

So where were the company’s representatives and spokespeople while all this was going on? Asleep? Too busy to communicate? Wherever they might have been, they were not on Twitter, they were not in the blogosphere, and they were completely ignorant of this groundswell of consumer discontent. And once apprised of it, they simply chose to ignore it.

I was unable to find any media contact information on the company’s website. Like most companies that employ the Web as a means of hiding from their customers, the company provided only a rudimentary inquiry form designed to limit customer comments and prevent consumers from learning actual company names and e-mail addresses, which, as everyone knows, if released to the public, will bring about the decline and fall of civilization as we know it.

I completed the form, and outlined for them the under-$500 Twitter-based social media plan. Not surprisingly, I received no acknowledgment of my e-mail. I did not expect the company, which has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of understanding of the most basic aspects of brand management, to actually sign up for Twitter — which was my recommendation. But what I did expect was a computer-generated “thank you we’ve received your inquiry” note, and I do not get that either. I am not sure why I am surprised that a company with notoriously bad customer service, and complete indifference to customer discontent, would behave in this manner. It just seems so basic. Interestingly, for a time, as this was all happening, a new user with the company’s name showed up on Twitter, posted a few test messages, and subsequently deleted the account.

No company “has” to be on Twitter, but with the low cost of entry, and the opportunity to get involved in and learn from some of these discussions (and possibly head some of them off before they become blog posts and social media failure case studies), why wouldn’t you? Corporate communications people who don’t know how to use Technorati, Google Blog Search, search.twitter.com, RSS and alerts to monitor online discussions about their company are nothing less than negligent.

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