Social Media Will Not Fix It.

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If it’s not broken, why fix it?  Well, even if you don’t think it’s broken, throw in your audience, give them a bullhorn and they’ll give you a laundry list of to-do’s to fix something they think is broken.  While most of the time you can chalk it up to complaining (because we’re human and we’re more inclined to critique and give our more than two cents than actually praise), there will be trends over a period of time that will indicate that something is, in-fact, broken.

I work on social media engagements with a healthy array of clients – from small –to-mid-sized businesses to the Fortune 100.  I’ve seen a lot.  I’ve seen audience feedback that makes me proud to own a project and I’ve seen audience feedback that makes me send myself bat signals (yes, like in Batman, but I send them to myself) so I can hide in conference rooms and cry.  Okay, the last part of that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is that audience feedback can be rough.  And it’s not “social media” that causes the problem.  It’s the company’s actual audience in the real world.  Now, that audience actually has a voice and they have a computer and now, they have power even if they are 350% wrong.  And like it or not, they’re not going to stop.

Yes, that’s right.  Social media is not your problem.  Social media is not your solution.  Social media is also not magic and at the same time, social media will not be your downfall.

Social media is simple.  It’s people plus content.  That is all.    If you have a real-world customer service issue, people will notice.  People will talk.  People will probably complain about your company. People might inform their networks on sites like Facebook or Twitter or post a less than flattering review on Yelp.  If you have a corporately owned presence on these sites, they’ll probably seek you out and let you know directly.  Being present on these sites isn’t going to fix the problem which is the actual customer service issue you have (long wait times, unprofessional staff, etc.).

Just ask PostNet.  Three consecutive posts on a company “page” on Facebook (this means that it was created by an official representative of the company and the content is not auto-pulled by Facebook as the “community pages” are) are less than pleasant.

When you magnify people’s voices, add the immortality of content through the Internet and the action of “screenshotting” – once it’s posted, it has the possibility of living on after it has been deleted.

Unfortunately for PostNet, I screenshotted this page in mid-February of 2011.  When I went back to find the actual page for this for this blog post, it no longer exists on Facebook.  My guess is that PostNet removed the page because they realized that a presence on Facebook isn’t going to be the coupon distribution marketing platform they were looking for (see the last post on the screenshot by PostNet the brand, noting the 10% coupon).

Before looking at the buzz and hype of Facebook to distribute coupons, make sure you’re okay with giving your audiences the microphone.  If you don’t know your audience you’re going to put yourself at the reputational risk of opening the floodgates with no plan (PostNet responded to 0 of 3 consecutive complaints and apparently just removed themselves from the platform).

The real intriguing question here is – what is PostNet going to do about the implications of this audience feedback?  If the service and the staff are true issues,  a problem that needs to be addressed in physical locations is surfacing via social media.

How can you use social media, people and content to identify gaps in your business?  More importantly, how you can take action on those identified gaps in order to push your business forward?

Focusing on the opportunities – how can you move what you do best to a social platform that you can manage?  If you gave your adoring audiences a bullhorn, how can you help shape the feedback that they will give you?

Unlike Christina Aguilera, social media is not a genie in a bottle.  It’s just a magnifying glass.  Listen to it, analyze it, and use it to improve.  We’re not all perfect, we just have to know how to improve and what to concentrate on.  Know your audience (or at least try to), and (gasp!) just ask them.

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