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Max Valiquette

May 15, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Max Valiquette: Don’t Tweet Angry

Innovation and Trends Expert Max Valiquette helps companies, organizations, and brands find solutions to their problems by better understanding their employees, customers, and communities. He was named one of Canada’s “Most Influential Marketers” by Marketing magazine, and has worked with some of the biggest brands around the world. Today, Max weighs-in on social media etiquette:

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m doing what a lot of us do on a Sunday: catching up on Facebook before heading out to eat. Someone has beaten me to it, though, by doing both: catching up on Facebook while at brunch – the diner is Toronto’s Swan Restaurant and she is unhappy with the music that they’re playing. So she’s complaining. To the restaurant. On the virtual wall of its Facebook page. Because, you know, talking to staff while you’re there is so 2008.

Look, I get it: we’re living in the age of social media and our customers get to participate in a two-way experience with us. And for the most part, this is terrific: brands can create meaningful connections with their end users, which is what marketers really want.

But this otherwise welcome trend has also given birth to the whiniest, rudest, most annoying generation of consumers in the history of our economy. These are people who forget basic manners; people who expect the impossible and complain about it publicly when they don’t get it. Guess what, customers: you’re not always right. And even if you are, complaining about a missing Allen Key (integral to all furniture assembly) to Ikea’s Twitter account just makes you sound like a jerk with too much time on your hands (and too few tools in your house).

So it’s turned into this sort of self-perpetuating system. Consumers complain via tweets, like everyone else. Then if they don’t get a response, or one that’s not good enough, they complain about that. Via tweet. Is it reasonable for customers to expect an immediate response? Does having a Twitter presence mean that brands have to respond to customers who are rude or abusive?

I’m not sure that it does. I think there’s a sort of social media narcissism here, too: we’re all just so certain that the combined might of our 300 Twitter followers is enough to scare any brand into listening to us right away. It isn’t, of course. The Kim Kardashians and Justin Biebers of the world notwithstanding, very few of us actually have a social network that we can really leverage to put pressure on a brand. And yet we (as consumers) behave as if we do.

At the risk of sounding naive, if consumers are really supposed to enjoy relationships with brands, they need to treat these relationships with some respect. They tweet angry and expect a result. That might fix the immediate problem, but it won’t actually improve the overall relationship with a brand. Public escalation used to be the last resort for a “wronged” consumer: for many, it’s now the first salvo. That’s not good for any relationship.

And for brand managers, this is where it gets incredibly difficult. Do you respond to people who are angry in the moment? And if so, what do you say when it’s in a public forum? You may just be bringing more attention to what is a temporary problem (or a problem that’s affecting only one person). The speed with which our respective feeds move means that, unless it’s an exceptional situation, negative mentions of your brand will disappear just as quickly as the positive ones.

So as terrible as it sounds, I think we have to train our customers here: public complaining shouldn’t be rewarded.

Rather than trying to fix someone’s problem via a tweet, I think we need to direct him or her to our regular CRM channels and deal with them there.

If we’re continuing to feed the expectation that loud tweeting at a brand turns into immediate response, we’re all going to spend all of our time in 140-character conversations. If we continue to feed the trolls, they’ll just keep trolling.

So if you don’t like the language someone has used when they tweet at you, don’t respond. If someone is disrespectful on your Facebook page, you can feel free to respond, or delete, if they’re too jerky. You can even watch as your community corrects them for you. If you do have a Twitter feed, remember to state very clearly in your bio what the purpose of the feed is. That’s actually a good place to direct people to the best way to get their problems fixed.

Mostly, though, I think we have to start rewarding “good” behaviour (responding to positive conversations), and steering our customers away from the “bad” (placating the whiners).

That’s the thing about social media being a public forum: some people will just act out in public. And as tough as it is for our brands, the right answer for us is sometimes just to ignore the problem and watch as it goes away.

Max Valiquette/Strategy Online