Industry analyst Gartner Research issued a report naming social networking as one of the top ten "disruptive" (innovative, game-changing) influences shaping information technology today. Have you ever posted a message about a company's product or service online? Why or why not? Should organizations fear Web sites where consumers post negative messages about products and services? What actions can companies take in response to this disruptive influence?
I have never posted a message about a company on Facebook or any other social media service. However, I have posted reviews of products and companies’ customer service on shopping sites like Amazon. I have not posted on Facebook or other social media because I have not had any experiences that have been bad enough to make me want to try to hurt a company’s business. I have posted reviews because I think that many people are likely to see them and that such reviews can help other consumers to make informed choices about what to buy and from whom to buy it.
Companies absolutely need to fear websites where reviews and commentary are posted. People who are making buying decisions often go online to try to learn more. They often use Google to look for information. If websites with negative comments are high on the list of Google results, potential buyers are likely to see them. If there are many negative comments about a given company, those buyers might well shy away from doing business with that company.
There is no foolproof way for companies to fight back against the influence of these websites. The most common advice to them is to be proactive in their own use of social media and the internet. For example, companies are advised to take steps to make sure that their own content dominates Google searches about them. They ae also advised to be very active on various forms of social media. This will allow more people to be exposed to the company’s own messages and it can help reduce the chance that people will believe (and/or post) negative messages about the company. Companies can also cultivate “opinion leaders” who are followed by many on social media. They can try to build relationships with those opinion leaders in hopes that the opinion leaders will post good commentaries about the company and its products.
In today’s internet-dominated world, companies definitely do have to be concerned about their online reputation. They have to try as hard as they can to manage their online reputation so that they do not lose control of it and thereby incur damage to their brand and their business.
I've never posted about a business's products or services online. The service or product would have to be mind-blowingly exceptional in order for me to post about it, and that so rarely happens. On the other end of the spectrum, if any issue occurs, then I would prefer to resolve the issue with the company in question rather than rant about it online. Mistakes happen, and I feel like negative reviews sometimes carry so much weight so it would be really harsh on my part.
As to whether organizations should fear websites where people might post negative reviews, I think it is reasonable for them to be afraid of fake bad reviews. For whatever reason, if a person who did not actually engage in business with that company posted a scathing review, then yes I think that is an issue. However, if it is actually that company's customers who are posting their frustrations with the product or service they received, the company can use this as a free (albeit somewhat hurtful) resource for future improvement.
Finally, the disruptive influence of social networking can be the downfall for certain companies, but it can also bring life to the business. Companies that are willing to embrace social networking early on to connect with customers and better understand what consumers are looking for will find themselves in a stronger position. Social networking can also be a way to a company to boost its image.