“In the 1990’s, if people wanted to complain about brands, they would have to develop an entire website from scratch, find an audience and submit their URL’s to different search engines,” said Chris Botha, managing director of the online complaints management service Getclosure, speaking at the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) Summit 2014.
He said that once social media was introduced to the internet, it completely altered user generated content.
“Things that used to make it hard for people to communicate on the internet were broken down by social media. Most of your (brand) consumers are participating in some form of social media,” he said.
(READ MORE: S.Africa businesses failing to embrace social media)
Not only has social media lowered the barriers of entry to the internet, it has also removed anonymity.
“We made this happen when we added our personal information to social networks like Facebook.”
What’s more, an audience is already included and people can engage directly using their mobile phones.
“People can now take a photo when they’re experiencing bad customer service and share it online,” he said.
This led to the creation of the social media storm, where brand business problems spill into the online sphere.
For instance, if a company has received negative publicity in media reports, users take to social media platforms to break down that brand’s reputation.
As a response, more companies are creating dedicated support profiles on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Botha explained that there were a number of factors that brands should consider when setting up their profiles, such as the objectives they want achieved, the kind of customer issues they’re ready to engage with, what news will be shared and how active are they’re willing to be.
He said that currently, most companies have low level staff managing their social media platforms, which could lead to situations where the brand’s reputation is at stake.
“Sometimes, staff members don’t keep to their companies’ corporate veils which could lead to a crisis situation.”