Come out, come out, it’s getting safer to promote your business in the social networks

Are social network users getting friendlier? (Photo: alancleaver_2000 via Flickr)One of the most common reasons I hear for people not entering the world of online marketing through social channels like Facebook and twitter is because they fear opening themselves up to abusive and critical comments.

This is flawed on two counts:

  1. such comments will be made whether or not you are participating
  2. business people who remain ignorant of these tools rob themselves of hearing such comments and being able to respond in a timely manner

I have covered how to deal with the second problem in a previous post about eavesdropping on Twitter but today I will not a phenomenon and share some tips relating to the first problem; random, spontaneous criticism in social networks.

Why do we share poisonous comments publicly?

Evolutionary psychologists tell us that the reason we are geared to broadcast our experiences of bad consumer service like wildfire is to protect those around us.

In the past, such a tool would have helped family and neighbours.

Today, however, that same action spread via Facebook or twitter has potential to reach hundreds or millions of others, tarnishing reputations along the way.

But, surprisingly, not only is the reputation of the badly behaving business tarnished but there is a growing sense that the reputation of the whistle blower is tarnished too.

Last week, a marketing professor made the comment that his grumpy old man tweets about things seemed to be costing him followers and ‘love’ in the social channels.

A useful reminder RT @CullenOfAdelaid: How I learnt “”Grumpy Old Man” doesn’t cut it in social media” http://ow.ly/1wPou4

His comment struck a chord with me because, upon reflection, while I have mostly stuck to my mantra of never uttering online anything I would not feel comfortable having repeated to me in front of my wife, clients, colleagues or a judge in a court of law, I had been erring towards grumpy old man status. Poorly managed roadworks, bad coffee and frustrating telco experiences seemed to dominate my list, along with my critiques of shoddy, populist news practices in abc news 24 and perpetual culprits like a current affair and today tonight. See, there I go again.

The professor has a point. Who wants to tune into a grumbler?

It is bad enough when my gorgeous little girls get into whining mode, and yet the professor’s post revealed that here was their daddy doing the same thing in public, among grownups, when he should be setting a better example.

The professor’s Tweet got a lot of positive feedback and hence today’s post is to encourage you to step into this social world if your fear of vitriol had kept you out.

Yes, you might still cop some criticism (primarily if there is a gap between the expectations your marketing or your industry sets and the experience you actually deliver to your customers) but it is heartening to note that some of us will be doing our best to make their comments constructive rather than Destructive.

We can change

And as proof that leopards can change their spots, on Sunday, as I ordered my coffee at the Cibo cafe in Adelaide Airport, I absent-mindedly handed the woman at the counter three $20 notes instead of one – they had fastened together and I hadn’t done my usual rubbing of the notes to double check.

Luckily she did and gave me back two of my surplus notes along with my change.

This is the tweet I promptly sent:

Dear Cibo owners in #adelaide – I handed Cate at airport cafe 3 $20 notes by mistake – she handed 2 back. She is asset to you!

And within minutes, not only had @wenzelau retweeted my comment but he also replied to me publicly with this:

@stevedavis way to go Steve – recognizing great people is much better than complaining about bad service. Others should follow the example.

So, dip your toes in. The social networking waters might just be a little warmer than you imagined!

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