Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Week 3: Social Media Pros and Cons

Courtesy of: findsomewinmore.com

Social media has made it easier and more complicated for companies to market their products and services to consumers.

If a company does not have a strong media presence, it takes time and money to set one up the right way. Depending on the size of the organization, different levels of approval and support may be needed even to get things moving. Developing social media sites require work, such as creating the social personality and voice of the company, brand, and products (Kerpen, 2011, 86). Once the sites are up, it takes considerable effort to monitor social networking sites. Kerpen recommends having employees available to respond to people’s negative complaints within 24 hours or less (p. 79).

In terms of the positives, social media allows companies to interact with their customers more than ever. In addition, these organizations can get real-time market research information without even having to pay for it. Cal Henderson of Flickr says the company releases new features up to every 30 minutes (O’Reilly, 2005). If people use them, the rest of the site gets the functionality; otherwise, it is removed. Marketers can learn about what customers are looking for, find new products or features, and even discover the best way to communicate (Kerpen, 2011, p. 15). Moreover, IBM’s Listening for Leads program is a prime example of how a company can find new business opportunities by keeping an eye on social media outlets (p. 22). You can read more about the program here.

One of the downsides to social media is how easily individual complaints can become public (Kerpen, 2011, p. 14). Although negative comments are inevitable, how a company responds is crucial (p. 77). If an organization does not take the time to respond, “you risk having one horrible customer experience totally erode your reputation, and eventually your bottom line, regardless of the size of your company” (p. 69). For instance, singer Dave Carroll was on a United Airlines flight and his guitar had been broken. Carroll told airline representatives, but no action was taken. As a result, Carroll posted this video, which was viewed more than 100,000 times in its first day. United certainly felt the negative ramifications from this one incident. Although it is not always easy to have the appropriate staff on hand, responding to criticism quickly in public and then privately messaging the individual shows that the company takes these issues seriously (p. 79).

On the other hand, customers can be a company’s biggest fans, posting on their Facebook walls or Twitter pages. Because “word-of-mouth endorsements and conversation from satisfied customers remains the most potentially powerful marketing tool,” it is just as important for companies to respond to good comments (Kerpen, 2011, p. 85). As customers become loyal, they will not only be a source of information for new customers, but even defend the brands and products that they have come to love (p. 68).


Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook (& other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved from http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a//web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html


  1. Allison,

    Fantastic analysis!

    I think you make a great point in mentioning that social media success does not happen overnight, and takes dedication and persistence of staff, usually more than one, to successfully enter the social media sphere.

    Do you think social media has opened a door for many smaller businesses, which may not have the budgets or staff to garner the amount of coverage through traditional means, as they are able to do on modern platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others? Or do you feel the work involved in maintaining the platforms is stretching the usually already thin staff?

    I love that you included the IBM example – and the fantastic Q&A from the IBM blog. The CFO at my current job is a retired IBM executive – so he always uses their practices and internal workings as a basis for my current company. They have always been cutting-edge and try to maintain pace with the technology curve. IBM is such a large and successful company, it speaks something large when they believe that their Listening for Leads program is one of the best initiatives they have had (Hall, 2010). I think this speaks to Kerpen’s point that listening is one of the most important jobs on social media.

    I found it interesting that Kerpen’s lessons on communication cite that social media should be 50% listening and 50% talking (Kerpen, 2011, p.14). I always thought that traditional beliefs were that it was always more important to listen than to talk

    What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Kerpen’s 50/50 suggestion? I suppose during instances, as you discuss in your closing paragraph, when customers or consumers are angry, negative or displeased – it is very important to communicate back.

    Hall, M. (2010, May 5). Innovative IBM Group Listens for Leads via Social Media. Retrieved September 16, 2015.

    Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on facebook (& other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

  2. Thanks Caitlin!

    I think social media has certainly created opportunities for smaller businesses. For instance, Cardoso Cookies is a new online cookie delivery company, right here in the Hudson Valley. Anthony Cardoso is a graduate of the Culinary and he has been bringing samples to local businesses to help spread the word. I got to try one of these cookies and it was pretty delicious. It prompted me to check out the Cardoso Cookies Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cardosocookies) and website (http://www.cardosocookies.com/). I even liked the page on Facebook. I believe this is certainly helping to spread the word more quickly than traditional marketing techniques. If Cardoso Cookies can get people who enjoy the product and have a lot of friends and followers, they can get free publicity (Kerpen, 2011, p. 91). While it may be more work to monitor the different social media accounts, I feel that small businesses are typically very motivated and excited to get their businesses off the ground, which means that they are willing to take the time to get new customers.

    In terms of the percentage that companies should listen versus talk, I think it depends on the business. If it is a small business, it may need to talk a little more to get people familiar with their brand and product. Larger companies may have a more even split between talking and listening, as they already have a lot of feedback from customers, yet still need to respond to them. It also depends on the industry. Kerpen talks about the Neutrogena SkinID and how many of the comments cannot be responded to on the Facebook page because they need to be answered by physicians (2011, p. 20). As a result, a greater percentage of listening is done. I can relate to this, as I work in the pharmaceutical field and know how tough it is to use social media in our campaigns. Every time we have brought up an idea related to social media, we are told that there are too many legal and compliance issues. We would need someone to constantly monitor the page and it might make it more difficult to be authentic, which is an important part of any social media page (p. 96).

    Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook (& other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

  3. Hi Allison,

    Great post!

    I too wrote about the positives of social media being its easy interaction with customers. I feel its very important to establish an amicable two-way relationship with our audience. If consumers post consistently and we do not acknowledge them, this will create problems. With easier interaction it allows us to monitor customers needs, wants, and demands and allow us to hopefully make them possible. As Kerpen (2011) states "Knowing what's important to your customers can help you better plan offers, promotions, and contests to further drive buzz and sales." (p. 15)

    Similarly, I wrote about the spread of misinformation on social media. Complaints being similar in that both can spread like wildfire and both may be totally unfounded. These can create exceptionally delicate situations. A company must respond to show acknowledgement but also should not cause a public conflict. Kerpen (2011) offers a fine solution by making a quick public response, then addressing the individually privately. "By responding quickly and publicly, you not only respond to someone's complaint or concern, but you also send the message out to the world at large that you're the kind of company that listens to its customers and fixes problems promptly. By taking the individual matter private, you avoid a public back-and-forth between company and customer, which wouldn't help anyone involved and prolongs the negative situation." (p.78) I believe executing this solution would help tremendously in a crisis-management situation.

    1. Such a fantastic point you made about the struggles of social media for companies that find themselves in a more stringent market. I recall from previous discussions throughout my tenure at Marist of others having the same roadblock not only for social media, but other areas of marketing – including promotions, advertising and sensitive PR.

      I can relate to your pharmaceutical experiences with social media. One of my clients is within the healthcare sphere – a hospital system – and oftentimes I find we struggle with developing a “voice” or “behind-the-curtain” effect for the brand due to the numerous issues with legal and/or privacy. In addition, social media loses its attractive “spontaneity” when each post needs to be review by numerous department heads – which leaves the end-product sounding and feeling more robotic than sincere, which hinders followers from liking and engaging with the page.

      I like your way of thinking for the 50/50 listening versus talking rule. Listening should apply more to larger brands, who need to better instill an understanding of their consumers. While talking should apply more to smaller brands, who need to better instill a sense of voice and brand with their companies. Solid opinion for my question!

    2. Thanks Jordan!

      It is tough because complaints can pile up on social media sites and companies cannot always keep up with them. Kerpen writes about how it might not be possible to address every single person, but to prioritize based upon their online influence (2011, p. 80). I believe this has happened to me, as I tweeted about a terribly rude encounter I had with a MTA subway employee. I made sure to tag the MTA in hopes that I would get a response. Unfortunately, I had only started a Twitter account for this class, so clearly my following was not large enough to deem a response. At the same time, Kerpen states that not responding also sends "a strong message: the customer's opinion doesn't matter to you" (p. 78). It is hard to balance these two dichotomies.

      Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook (& other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

    3. Allison,

      Great point about how the negative side of Facebook poses some challenges - especially when it comes to negative feedback, complaints or angry consumers.

      I believe social media complaints are another area that may have bending rules when comparing large-scale companies to smaller self-owned businesses. Each needs to market and use Facebook differently. While the MTA not responding may be accepted because, as you state, you are aware of limited followers and activity not marking you as a "high priority" stakeholder in terms of the company image - smaller companies need to take every complaint seriously, due to the smaller amount of reviews and word-of-mouth they have to rely on. I think the age-old "do-not-delete" rule that Kerpen refers to may me less stringent for companies so large that the chatter just results in a dull noise - rather than a fire alarm for PR and marketing to react to.

      How do you understand and interact with companies on social media in terms of complaints? I know that I still rely on the original methods if I truly want to see action and results - whether that be a phone call or email. I don't think I have yet evolved to resorting to social media as the avenue of choice for resolving my complaints or problems. If I have a negative experience with a customer service agent on the phone, I may comment a generalized complaint such as "Poor customer service associates...." etc., but never to specifically announce a situation I am displeased with.

      However, we have also seen where enough consumers flood social media at once with complaints that the brand is forced to take notice and listen to the collective opinion. I know I have witnessed this when brands try to change logos, colors or make updates to their software that consumers don't accept. Oftentimes, the result of such a large-based outcry is for corporate to revert their initial decisions - a great example of the power of the "many."

      What are your thoughts? Have you found the expectation for complaints has evolved to the social media sphere? Or do you also still rely on the traditional methods?

    4. To be honest, I am more like you—entering my complaints the “old-fashioned” way through email and phone. Since I had just started up the Twitter account, I thought I would see if I could get a response in this manner. I have to say that I also wrote an email complaint and received a very generic email response that I believe was not at all authentic (Kerpen, 2011, p. 96). Overall, I was not pleased with the MTA.

      I know there are a lot of companies—even large ones—that do a better job at monitoring these complaints via social media. As we know, there are many paid software solutions for this sort of thing, such as Parature, Radian6, and Vocus (Kerpen, 2011, p. 17). I sat next to a man on a plane who told me that his company monitored the tweets for Delta (we were on a Delta flight). As a customer on a previous Delta flight, he heard a rattling noise on the plane and tweeted about it. He was direct messaged almost immediately and thanked for letting them know about the issue. He was also given bonus miles as a reward. Even though this was not a negative comment per se, Delta went above and beyond, making the customer happier (p. 83).

      In general, there is still a mix of ways to get complaints out there and it really depends on the company as to how they address and respond to them.

      Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook (& other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

    5. Allison,

      Great point about the corporate monitoring companies for social media! Larger companies truly have a large mountain ahead of them - to keep up with instantaneous trends, comments and complaints online of such a large magnitude - while still maintaining one of the prime goals of social media, as Kerpen states: "To show behind the curtain."

      Just this week I had a large utility company ask me if we could develop social media calendars and pre-schedule for up to 6 months out of the year. As we have discussed here, even large companies with huge staff numbers find it is difficult to keep up with social media. And, for some companies, social media is necessity that they merely need to exist on as a formally - rather than heavily interact.

      However, I had to explain to my client that sound robotic and scheduled on social media basically ruins the point of it altogether - to sound genuine, humanized and have personality.

      I wonder how soon it will be that companies, much like the automatic response you received via e-mail, will develop the same technologies for social media. Just like we are asked to "press one for english" by a robot for every phone call - I see a future of every comment/post (regardless of content or purpose) receives an automated "Thank you for your comment." response.

      It will certainly be interesting to see where the field goes next!

  4. Hi Allison,

    I think that organizations getting real-time market research information for free is a great resource and would be a waste for a company not to take full advantage of that opportunity. It's also great that Flickr releases new features up to every 30 minutes, excellent example of using social media to its full potential. I also touched on the cons of the individual complaints going public using the United Airlines examples. I think that even though negative comments going pubic is a con for organizations, it is a pro for the individual and hopefully will lead to better customer service overall.

    Great Post,