February 16 2010

If We Aren’t Supposed To Use Social Media, Why Are The Companies There?

In this final installment of my impromptu series about using social media as a weapon, I have one simple question for the detractors: If we aren’t supposed to use it to express problems and concerns with companies, why do they have representatives that monitor the sites?

Prompted by the recent Kevin Smith/Southwest Air dust up (which Mr. Smith has now said he’s tired of it and moving on), I’ve now spent two days exploring why there are still people out there that think we should never use social media as a weapon against a company.  As I said yesterday, social media is a tool, and we should use it.  Why shouldn’t we use a tool that exists?  “Oh, I need to sink this nail, and I have a hammer, but I should use it, it wouldn’t be right.”  Forget that, I’m swinging that hammer!  (and probably going to smack my thumb with it)

As I told the tale yesterday of how I had a problem with a FedEx delivery last month, I turned to Twitter as a last resort.  I had exhausted the other avenues of what I could do, so I turned to social media, and sure enough, I got a response, literally within minutes.  The first came from one employee, and the next day was his day off, but another FedEx employee was on.  So not only was FedEx taking the possibility of complaints and customers needing assistance on Twitter seriously, they were taking it very seriously.

There obviously is a reason these people are charged with being on Twitter, and that is because the company fully expects customers to use it.  Yes, you could make a “chicken and the egg argument” (which came first. the FedEx employees or the complainers?), but any way you slice it, the situation exists.  And I know I keep bringing up FedEx, but that is because it is the only time I have used Twitter in such a manner, and, hey, it worked.

If companies are going to take these services seriously, and they are going to put resources into them, why shouldn’t we use them?  Are these people to sit there and twiddle their thumbs all day?  They’re there to do a job, to diffuse problems before they get too big, and I say more power to them.

For the first time in modern history, you have a direct path to complaining to a company that is done in public and they can be held accountable.  In the past you would write a letter of complaint and hope for a reply, which more than likely would never come.  If it did, you usually got some sort of coupon and a curt note.

You did have the option of a phone call sometimes, but those also never seemed to be effective.

Writing a blog about it?  You could never be sure that the right people would see it.

Social media seems to be the most direct method to speak with someone from a company with the power to help you, and they are there for that reason.  Reach out to them, stay civil, but do reach out to them, that’s what they are there for.

In closing, I still think what Mr. Smith did was right, and I don’t think it had anything to do with his having 1.6 million followers.  Southwest Air has two employees that monitor Twitter for issues, so they expect people to talk about them.  More and more companies are doing this, and I don’t care what the “social media purity squad” has to say about it, I for one am going to use it.

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