How big companies deal with social media

An article in the Economic Times of today gives instances of big companies flunking in dealing with negative social media response. It does not come as a surprise to us.

The lack of professionalism with which nost companies run their media affairs is amazing. The CEOs and CMDs - and people aspiring to reach these positions someday – ignore communication, be it with their employees, business partners or consumers. The most ignored and misunderstood among them are the end-uses of their products. Bosses carry out their operational and financial communication with key stakeholders through visits, telephonic talks and mails, formal meetings, parties and so on, but they hardly talk to their consumers, especially when the consumer happens to be ‘the common man’. We are not making this observation on the fly; we are saying this with authority and seriousness.

Look at some of the big ad campaigns running right now. Do you notice the Photoshopped photographs of models with unearthly smooth skins and queen-like attitude, and the self-congratulatory copy? Ads in wrong places? Unrelated / quirky / suggestive / hyperbolic content? Such ads can pass only when the big boss is either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid.

For most companies, communication with remote stakeholders ends with issuing ads. For an understanding corporation, ads should only be a very small part of the overall communication strategy. But do the top guys bother?

Come social media and the consumer suddenly has got a voice that is heard far and wide. Not only that, the voice gets relayed again and again as i- social media often goes ‘viral’, and ii- social media is open 24x7. Add to it the consumer behavior: in most situations, he sits quite when happy but cries horse when he’s been wronged.

Can you expect a genuine and professional communication from the top corporate brass as demanded by the social media? Social media demands that you talk to your publics the way Dale Carnegie wanted: listen more and talk less. And what companies do: They give this avoidable additional / marginal / secondary responsibility of dealing with social media to juniors who hire some self-proclaimed expert agency whose reps in turn fool the bosses with technicalities and jargons. So a flash-heavy but annoyingly uncaring website is created, a blog is associated with it, an account is opened on Facebook and a Twitter account is also sometimes added as top dressing. if some new fashionable platform opens up tomorrow, the agency will put that too and take credit for being up-to-date with the latest tech. What about content - is it written with the end user in mind? What about response to queries? What systems are in place to instantly respond in an understanding and helpful manner to every grievance? Has the company the humility and courage to say sorry if something did go wrong? The answer to such questions is seldom ‘yes’.

The Economic Times article lists a few ads that were seen as inappropriate. Till now there was hardly a forum available to the common viewer / listener / reader to protest against these, but social media has put the loudspeaker before him. The damage an angry consumer can do should be obvious, but even the big multi-nationals don’t care. Isn’t it because [as we said earlier] they are either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid?

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