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Social Media Phobia: Killing the Messenger

It costs seven times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an old one

PR on Ulitzer

I have a client with a “twitic.” A customer who, on Twitter, will criticize and say absolutely vulgar things about the company and his dealings with it. A customer that refuses to consider limitations of contracts and instead resorts to blameshifting and voicing of unrealistic expectations. Some of my contacts within the client organization considered “blocking” this Twitterer – taking him off of their corporate Twitter feed so they would not see the critical postings.

There are a lot of companies that, for one reason or another, choose this path of avoidance when it comes to social media. The mindset seems to be that if they don’t see the negativity about their company, then it’s not happening, or it’s not so damaging. Or perhaps that if the organization is not giving the Twitterer (or blogger, or Web site commenter, forum participant – really the concepts remain the same for any social media platform) the “time-of-day,” that others in cyberspace won’t either. I think that, when put into black-and-white and read on a page, nearly everyone can see the problems inherent in such an approach: not only is an opportunity to provide enhanced customer service squandered, but an opportunity to engage in true conversation with customer – to learn their wants and needs; to become involved in education; or to shift mindsets to increase brand awareness or product adoption – are missed.

As a PR person, I find such missed opportunities among the most egregious oversights that companies, or agencies on behalf of companies, can make. Let’s face it, technology makes the possibilities to interact with our various and sundry stakeholders available as well as easily accessible and downright cheap – there’s no reason not to get involved. If public relations is truly “management of communication between an organization and its publics[1],” then what better tool to employ than one that lets organizations speak directly and in real-time to the publics they are communicating with?

So what stops organizations – as well as some, ahem, seasoned PR folks – from embracing the possibilities that social media present? Fear.

Ah yes, the great de-motivator of society. But what really, is there to fear from talking – be it directly or indirectly via an electronic channel – having a simple conversation with people you do business with? If you’re an honest businessperson and treat others with fairness and respect, there should be no hesitation in engaging with people directly – whether using technology or not.

The bottom line is simple: we’ve all read the marketing statistics that say it costs seven times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an old one. If social media platforms will help keep consumers informed of key business news and information more quickly, and can help resolve issues more quickly and effectively, there’s not much to fear and far more to be gained. Let’s embrace what technology can offer and use it to our best advantage.

In the case of my client’s Twitic: we resolved his issues to his satisfaction and offered Twitter as another avenue to try when he needs service. He’s piped down and hasn’t mentioned my client in a negative light since. Chalk one up for Twitter.

[1] James E. Grunig and Todd Hunt, Public Relations Techniques (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1994), p.6.


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More Stories By Karyn Price

Karyn joined the Bailiwick Company ten years ago, and spends the majority of her time managing media relations and corporate, employee and marketing communications for her telecommunications and technology clients. She currently leads the company's public relations practice. With an eye toward results, she works diligently to secure meaningful coverage for clients in relevant print and online publications, as well as in key financial and analyst reports. Her new-found passion for social media has ignited additional interest for the clients she serves. Prior to joining Bailiwick, Karyn was the communications manager for the Bucks County Conference & Visitors Bureau, where she publicized the beauty, art and culture that the region offers to leisure travelers. Under her direction, the county saw a 43 percent increase in travel leads. She has also spent time in advertising. Karyn holds an M.A. in Professional Communication from La Salle University and a B.A. in Communication from Elizabethtown College. Outside of the office she enjoys music, spending time with family and reading great novels. Please note that the views expressed on this site are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the clients I represent.

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