In 2015, 31% of the world’s population had social media accounts. That means roughly 2.3 billion people are on social media ,and every one has an opinion that will likely end up on a social networking site. Does social media give these users and their opinions power?
As great as it is that the world is becoming interconnected, the sheer amount of accounts (and therefore, posts) means that users can get lost in news feeds pretty easily. Sure, in users’ heads, every review left on a company’s Facebook page is significant, but in reality, social media users have limited power. 90% of the time, their social media activities will result in nothing more than a few likes from friends. However, when their posts go viral, they can make a big difference.
A granddaughter’s tweet about her cousins missing out on dinner with her Pappy got over 180,000 retweets and turned into 1,500 people showing up at a cookout benefitting her grandfather just two weeks later. He has become a sort of internet celebrity and says he grew closer to his six grandchildren as a result.
Of course, a lot of social media posts have to deal with one’s family and friends, but a great deal also are directed at organizations. People use social media to voice concerns or express an affinity for a brand or a product.
Recently, a Yelp employee who felt she was being underpaid wrote a letter on Medium to the CEO voicing her concerns, which quickly went viral. It didn’t have the effect that she wanted as it resulted in her termination at the company, but it did spread awareness about the obnoxiously high cost of living in San Francisco and other U.S. cities as well as start a conversation about how to address this issue.
A Facebook post by a Canadian woman also went viral. Though the translation Facebook provides may be poor, the quality of the Tommee Tippee product she was complaining about is far worse. Her friend found mold growing inside her son’s anti-leak sippy cup with no way to clean the anti-leak tank besides ruining the product. Marie’s post has been shared over 40,000 times and made its way to many popular news sites. Lots of commenters have said they will never purchase from the brand again.
What should organizations do in an age where complaints are no longer just spoken to friends and have the potential to be seen worldwide?
Organizations should know that their behavior is being watched by billions of social media users and be aware that while users’ posts may not majorly impact public opinion on a day to day basis, if a post goes viral, the organization had best be prepared for clean up.
Some organizations have begun to hire community managers whose sole job it is to reply to users on social media to prevent their issues from blowing up and negatively affecting the organization. I think this proactive strategy is great in that it maintains the relationship between a user and an organization as well as shows that the organization is eager and willing to improve itself for its customers or clients.
Organizations can also tap into the positive side of social media and share positive stories that users have posted about their product or brand, hopefully influencing others to become customers, clients, or at the least, fans.
Patagonia has a section of its website entitled “The Stories We Wear,” highlighting customers loving on their Patagonia products. Users are encouraged to share a story of their own to add to the positive messages about the brand and its high quality, and potential customers can be influenced to purchase a product based upon reading these stories.
If organizations can harness the power that social media users have and use it for their own benefit, both parties win. Users get huge visibility that they couldn’t obtain in their own networks and organizations get positive press.
My story that I submitted to Patagonia has not yet been uploaded to The Stories We Wear, but I’m holding out hope that it will be soon. Otherwise, I may voice my disdain on Twitter, where a few friends may favorite the tweet, but most likely nothing will happen. Unless, of course, I go viral.