Yes your business and you can screw up in public

A good point was made to me of late and that is of companies afraid to join the online web community for fear of the reaction. They highlight the bad cases. For some that’s just an excuse. It’s the headache to avoid sex, right? And? Here’s the sad fact of life: Even Mother Theresa was hated. The cow.

A good point was made to me of late and that is of companies afraid to join the online web community for fear of the reaction. They highlight the bad cases. For some that’s just an excuse. It’s the headache to avoid sex, right? And? Here’s the sad fact of life: Even Mother Theresa was hated. The cow. That’s just humans for you. Hiding from this though means you hide from the 99.99% of people that will be neutral towards you/like you/love you. If you want to mix with the real world then you need to stick your neck out.

If there are negative comments there are going to be positive comments too, probably way more. Being afraid of potential negative comments ore reactions and allowing them to dictate online reactions will poison your company.

Photo owned by Phillie Casablanca (cc)

Maybe companies should have more faith in not screwing up? However if they do mess up, they need to realise that being genuine about what happened and communicating it will help an awful lot.

There are tonnes of cases of companies getting the crap kicked out of them online. I’m an example myself for having a very short fuse with companies that invade my email or online space without having manners. People think life is too short to get worked up, I think life is to short to let some fucker walk all over you and let them off because they’re thick or invariably, lazy. That’s me, not you.

Anyhoo… a subtlety about being online is that while a screwup can cause an online riot, it can cause just a mild stir too or nothing. Bloggers screw up from time to time and sometimes there are outcries and threats of hate-sites and then people move on, something else happens to catch the magpie eye. People understand screw-ups and if t can be relayed to those online why the screwup happened and that there is genuine regret, most people will say “That’s grand so”. It also helps if you are already active online and are known to people before the screwup. That’s the biggie. Before you do anything, try and not be a stranger. Be known by being there in some way. Emails to people complimenting them on what they do, comments on their blogs. Genuine commentary, not commentary to tick a box next to “Being there”.

Warning Soft Mud
Photo owned by Bitterjug (cc)

Another way of being there is to start interacting on or create a space on IGOPeople and gently get involved there.

Dominos and the issues with staff doing horrible things to their pizzas got worldwide attention within hours due to the virality of YouTube and Twitter and Dominos responded quite quickly with their own YouTube video. Dominos were not on Twitter or YouTube or had much of an online presence before this, that’s now changing. Were they online and had a presence they probably would have known of this sooner and reacted sooner. The event would still have happened but maybe it would not have spread as much. Imagine if Dominos just released a press release?

For very large companies/brands, your first adventures in opening yourself up to the world might end up with lots of people shouting at you for years of crappy service or that 1% of crappy service when 99% of it was great. Think of the tech support hotline where you might get someone ranting and raving at an agent about some computer issue and then they end it with thank you. Initially your customers might need to vent.

At the recent blogging event in the EU Commission’s office EU Commissioner Margot Wallstrom spoke via video to a load of bloggers and talked about her first few blog posts got hundreds of negative comments from anti-europe people. She addressed some issues and ignored some of the madder stuff. She kept blogging and slowly more and more of the comments became more positive. The people that ranted for probably not being listened to up to now realised they were being listened to and became more constructive.

If you as a company realise a percentage of your customers are pissed off at you and so this is a reason for not opening up, then maybe the transparent nature of the web is not for you. Ownership is changing, copyright is changing. People feel loyal to brands and companies and give over energy to support their following and so feel they have a little ownership of the entity. Owners look after what they own.

We live in a prudish world where what we do on our free time and then stick up on Facebook might be used against our employers and so our employers don’t want you to do this. Imagine if instead they said “so what?” and told anyone complaining that they fully back their employees. Online, we, the ones that play around here a lot, we do say the “so what’ bit.

So please, join, accept, return the comments, screw up, don’t screw up, have fun and benefit.

3 thoughts on “Yes your business and you can screw up in public”

  1. Well said. The key is to deal with negative feedback in a constructive manner. If you made a mistake, admit it, and you’re already well on the road to some positivity. Interact with those who leave comments, be polite and honest – you’re never going to turn around opinions by being ultra-defensive. Instead, embrace the debate!

    And now, if it doesn’t work out, and you end up a public disgrace who is ridiculed, you can always blame Mulley.

  2. Good post this. Also think that many brands and companies are screwing up anyway and are afraid to listen to comments – see no evil, etc.. The fact that you can now observe and be part of conversations that previously took place in homes and pubs and on street corners is a positive thing. WOM is now often played out online. And you are right to point out that not everyone will like you and many will dislike you and just want to have a pop. Not engaging at all is not an option, but know who and what you are first.

    Half the problem, I think, is that often people take up marketing positions with companies, brands and organisations, but don’t have any real love, passion or commitment to them and don’t hang around long enough to try to engage. This is not just an issue for online communication, but for communication generally. So, there is no continuity, no one who really take ownership of brand communication and takes a long term view. In current circumstances, that may change and I hope it will.

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