How brands are using social media to take back control

From The Guardian:

he playing field on which brands and consumers face off has never been more level. Where previously brands controlled the means of broadcast (through PR, advertising and news coverage), consumers now have a megaphone of their own in the form of social media.

Social sharing and viral content means an angry mob has never been easier to assemble, and brands behaving badly can now find their reputation in tatters in a matter of hours. Just ask Addison Lee’s cyclist-bashing chairman John Griffin, who turned the company into a virtual punching bag for the denizens of Twitter and Facebook overnight. Griffin sparked anger by claiming the majority of cyclist road deaths in London are the result of inexperience on the part of the cyclist.

This is just one example from recent times when the consumer’s megaphone has become louder than that of the brand. Not only does social media amplify complaints, but with criticism out in the open it allows media outlets to offer coverage of the discourse, amplifying the criticism further How many news stories have you read which cite “Twitter outrage” or a “Facebook campaign”?

This reshuffling of power has forced many companies – both large and small – to rethink their customer service and marketing. Having suddenly had power wrested from them, many are now fighting back and employing some experimental and interesting methods to get back in the driving seat.

One company taking such an approach is Sainsbury’s. Apparently emboldened by their previous success in renaming Tiger Bread to Giraffe Bread based on an inquisitive three-year-old’s feedback, Sainsbury’s have allowed their customer support staff to let their hair down on social networks, resulting in more viral success.

Oke Eleazu, director of customer service strategy for Sainsbury’s says their customer service agents are left to their own devices “to gauge the feel of each customer interaction and reply as they feel is appropriate”. He added that although they do not directly connect their customer service with their marketing, the viral appeal of their more light-hearted support “is not a ‘coincidence’ either”.

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Guardian