Striking Out With Social Media

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
social media

You would think that more than a decade into social media, businesses would understand a simple fact: That it’s a place to interact, not a one-way broadcast.

Despite all the hype, hoopla and buzz over social media, it's incredible how many companies go AWOL when it comes to steering the enterprise social media ship. They set up pretty Facebook pages, establish Twitter and Instagram accounts, and proceed to transform the interactive nature of social media into a one-way broadcast. In other words, they use social media exactly how it is not supposed to be used.

On a personal level, I was reminded of this fact a couple of weeks ago, when a friend and I decided to visit a Chevy's Mexican restaurant in the Portland, Ore., area and found it shuttered. So my friend posted a question about the restaurant on the Chevy's Facebook page, but did not receive a reply.

After venturing online and doing a bit of research, I discovered that the franchisee had gone bankrupt and shuttered the location. Apparently, the Facebook page is associated with the specific restaurant and operated by the franchisee, which explains the lack of a reply. Of course, this also raises more questions than answers.

For instance, why does a defunct restaurant continue to display a Facebook page? Why hasn't the corporate office taken it down, or why doesn't someone from that office respond to customer posts? Does the corporation monitor its franchisees?

Unfortunately, this type of situation is all too common. And it's not even the worst example of social media gone wrong.

For every company that is responsible and attentive via social media, I'd estimate that three or four fail. They do not respond to Tweets or Facebook posts, or make any attempt to provide basic information or resolve a problem.

In Chevy's case, the end result is a Facebook page with an odd menagerie of posts and birthday photos from the great beyond of restaurantville. There's also a rancid taste of a business that doesn't seem to be tuned into customers.

Viewing social media as a one-way broadcast rather than a place to interact is about as dumb as serving a bowl of fake plastic chips to decorate the table. You would think that more than a decade into social media, businesses would understand this simple fact—along with the reality that failed social media touchpoints leads to upset customers and tarnished brand loyalty. To  make matters worse, sometimes these social media fails go viral.

Customer relationships aren't defined by glitzy marketing initiatives and cool Facebook pages. They're defined by ongoing interactions and the ability to address things when the chips are down.

This article was originally published on 2014-12-05

Samuel Greengard, a Baseline contributing writer, reports on business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.

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