“A growing number of businesses are tracking social-media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to gauge consumer sentiment and avert potential public-relations problems,” according to the WSJ this morning.
“Ford Motor Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co., among others, are deploying software and assigning employees to monitor Internet postings and blogs. They’re also assigning senior leaders to craft corporate strategies for social media.”
Ford was able to avert a PR crisis with a fan website because of the quick response of its “head of social media.” PepsiCo responded quickly to criticism of a potentially offensive ad in a German-language publication. And an “emerging-media team” from Southwest Airlines shaped a positive media response to an emergency landing, citing Tweets that praised “great work by crew and customers onboard.”
“Social media have magnified the urgency of crisis communication,” says Shel Holtz, a communications consultant in Concord, Calif., and co-author of “Blogging for Business.” He says seemingly small incidents can quickly spread into bigger PR problems via the Web.”
Companies can’t get away with bad behavior because social media puts them under too much scrutiny; it only takes one blog post or tweet or YouTube video to kick-start a flood of criticism leading to damaged reputations and lost customers. All those conversations are the motivation companies have needed to start providing excellent service, if for no other reason than to avoid fast-spreading conversations about just how bad they are.