Wednesday, January 2, 2008

9 Ways Social Media Can Hurt a Brand

*Note, this article was originally only a very brief bullet point summary of the full article, which was posted earlier this week on Court's Internet Marketing School. But social media can damage a brand that is slacking in their responsibilities to the customer, and I didn't feel the bullet points did the article justice, and it was getting under my skin! The article now posted here (which is slightly different than the original) can also be seen on Gooruze , my favorite online marketing network (any time I can give it a plug I will!)

I have a beef with Kia, the automotive company. My experience with them and my Sedona minivan leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But why should you care? Because, with social media, I now have so many more interesting ways to have my voice heard -- if not by a company that doesn't seem to want to listen, than by a community of consumers who rely more and more on peer reviews and recommendations. And I'd like to share these ways with you, in case you've got a beef of your own.

A couple of years ago, I would have gone through the following motions to log my complaint.

  • Talk with a company representative
  • Write a complaint e-mail to whatever contact is listed on the corporate website
  • Do a little research and write a complaint letter cc:ing various managers and executives
  • Contact a consumer hot line and maybe the better business bureau

After a bit of brainstorming, below are a list of ways a person could leverage social media channels to broadcast their displeasure with a company.

Write an Article and Pay Attention to SEO Copywriting Best Practices
Post it on your blog or be a guest blogger. You don't need to be a professional to do some SEO best practices, like pay attention to page titles and picking keywords to use throughout the article (plus combinations and variations of them).

Make a Web Page While in a Spiteful Mood
If your not in the mood to do it from scratch, set up a webpage the quick and painless (and free) way using Google Pages. Buy a domain name and point it to your page if you want it to seem a little more official. You could also make a Squidoo Lens for some attention from the Squidoo community. And if your feeling particularly spiteful, post positive reviews of the competitors products to your pages.

Put a Video on YouTube
In the case of Kia, I think potential Kia minivan owners would be interested to watch me try to put three toddlers into the carseats of our Sedona, in the middle of winter, with both sliding side doors frozen shut (not to mention all the windows, so no drive-thru coffee on a cold winter's day. Boo-hoo.)

Exploit Your Social Networks
Join social networking groups that could sympathize with your cause. Unfortunately, the people in these groups are already in your camp, and it is more a place to let off steam. If your comfortable with being obnoxious, join groups that love the company in question and air your woes on their message boards. You could also download an widget application that lets you post reviews of your stuff, like "IGot" for Facebook. Don't forget to tweet your network on Twitter with quick quips about the company.

Troll the Company's Corporate Blog, Seek out Sympathetic Blogs, Pitch Your Woes, Comment Your Complaints
Leave a message (or two) on the company's corporate blog to get your voice heard. Also, find blogs that might be sympathetic to your cause and might help you get some traction to your web page or video.

Submit to Social News and Social Bookmarking Sites
With any luck, readers might submit your article to places like Mixx, Digg, StumbleUpon, Sphinn...pick your flavor. And bookmarking to places like or Furl will help gain some added exposure.

Don't Forget the Complements
There are so many complement community sites that, if one was willing to put forth the energy, they could spread their message of displeasure all over the web. For instance, complementary sites to my Kia concerns might be places for parents to talk to each other, like IVillage or ParentsConnect -- communities with message boards and forums discussing children and everything associated with them, including recommendations for minivans.

Leave Ratings and Reviews on Relevant Websites
This is probably the most obvious complaint route with the least time investment required. Just copy and paste your reviews anywhere than will let you.

Finally, Encourage a Vicious Cycle and Go for a Chain Reaction
As a last and final step, shoot your family and close friends an email (or a tweet or IM), including your web page URL and your YouTube link. If you're passionate enough about a poor customer experience to spam your loved ones with your troubles, you're bound to get some sympathy, and maybe a forward or two along to their friends and family.


The tactics above may not be a good fit for every person who is angry with a company and wants to be heard. For instance, I realize I'm a bit passive aggressive -- I made a web page about Kia, but would never leave comments on their blog. But social media gives the average consumer new places to vent, to rant, to share, to provoke, and to discover a community of like-minded souls. The list above is a launching pad for some of the most obvious places to reach others with your thoughts and experiences -- both positive and negative. What are some other ways we can get our points across?