Good gossip, bad gossip: Doing business in the Internet age


All I could think about, reading this week’s readings, was how incredibly careful companies in sensitive industries have to be in hiring the individual(s)  or media firms who are the designated responders to social media. The best proactive campaigns would seem to me to be those that are nimble, clever and quick — without being stupid or making a faux pas. And the PRNewswire piece was a reminder of how sometimes the best response is to do nothing and wait it out. So just how do you train those communicators when “learning on the job” could be disastrous? Or do companies have a baseline “editor” situation set up to protect them from such errors (i.e. does anyone do a backread before a Tweet goes out? — Perhaps you saw this horrendous example this week out of the White House)? Or is it easier than I expect given we now have a generation raised on social media who may be far better than me about anticipating how certain efforts would be received?

I was also struck by how relevant (yet dated) the 2000 article by Bunting and Lipinksi (Drowned out?) was. Some of those examples seem so extreme today and is that because in general we have gotten more used to such antics of Internet sabotage or because companies have gotten more sophisticated about handling them so they make less waves? Or is it that social media has matured to such a point that many people just ignore a lot of noise?

Finally, the MITSloan article on building an Online Reputation System really hit home to me how building loyalty for your site/company online is more than baseline marketing, it’s corporate defense. You are trying to season a band of brand ambassadors. Hadn’t quite thought of it that way before, but I also thought about how little time I have for following/joining any company’s web community. How to measure return-on-investment? 


1. Does your company have a system for editing/backreading social media responses before they are sent out? 

2. Can you think of a recent case of Internet sabotage on a corporation that made headlines or you became aware of? 

3. What is your preferred way for complaining to a company? (Personally, I like email because I have a record and I’m not stuck on a phone — and I’ve never anticipated that social media would work…)



5 thoughts on “Good gossip, bad gossip: Doing business in the Internet age

  1. 1) At the college, only two people responded to comments & tweets. I took care of the fun ones. The webmaster handled the angry peeps. Sheila pretty much used the same response structure. If it was a sticky situation, she would talk to the lawyers before responding. Now, if it was something lengthy our copywriter would type it up for us.

    2) So, I can’t think of anything right this moment…but I came across this article. Just interesting.

    3) Well, I have never filed a complaint. I think I would probably send them an email if I were really angry. If I were just a little heated, a comment on Facebook might suffice. Right now, my roommate takes care of the bills so I really don’t need to deal with customer service issues. Lucky me, I guess. Don’t get me wrong…I am the person who will ask for a manager in person.

  2. Since I am currently a full time student I do not have a company that deals with social media. I do however have a part time job that I do a lot of social media posting for. My boss will read over my posts, sometimes even after I post them, to make sure they seem appropriate. I think it is important to have a system for back reading posts because otherwise one person can be generating all of the content for one company without anyone else having a say in it.

    I can’t think of a specific company that has dealt with Internet sabotage recently but companies have to be very aware of how they respond to consumer complaints and how they use their social media. Negative comments on a social site can hurt a company if they are not addressed because consumers will see those and consider them in their opinions of the company.

    If I can complain to a company in person I do. I cannot stand calling in for help I feel like I always get someone who barely speaks English who asks me a million questions before even addressing mine. Email does provide for a record of exactly what was said but I also feel like sometimes it gets lost in the tons of emails companies get and I receive a fake response from some automated system .


  3. My company has no approval process, but our social footprint is extremely small, so I’m not surprised. That’s beginning to change, but an approval process has not yet been established.

    I had not seen that White House tweet until this (and that word has definitely been written on his phone previously if autocorrect didn’t catch it). I’m extremely surprised that someone in such a public manner doesn’t have an approval process for social media posts. Considering that once something is posted, it is essentially there forever no matter if it’s deleted, you’d expect someone to be looking at things before they go out. There were some huge Twitter faux pas in 2012: Anthony Weiner, of course, and an Urban Outfitters’ post that was insensitive to Tropical Storm Sandy sufferers, to name a couple.

    I like email, too, because it keeps a record of the conversation. I also like the live chat feature on companies’ websites. Those are both much easier than being stuck on the phone. I just don’t feel like complaining should be done publicly, unless of course it’s warranted. Companies should be able to try to handle the situation privately before they receive negative comments publicly.

  4. At my old newspaper job we never reviewed tweets or posts before they were sent out — though I made enough bad typos that I wished they had. I mainly did breaking news and the thought process was that we would be behind in a story if I waited for an editor to look over it. The good news is that we were first a lot, the bad news is that everyone needs an editor, especially someone frantically trying to type on a tiny phone keyboard while wearing gloves in a snow storm.

    In the corporate world, where there isn’t as much breaking news, there absolutely needs to be an editor. You’d never dream of putting out a newsletter or press release without several sets of eyes on it, and yet companies think they can post to social media — where there are just as many, if not more people reading — without really giving it the time it deserves.

    I laughed out loud at a story I read recently about a social media specialist for the Red Cross accidentally posting to the company twitter account that she was out drinking beer and getting “slizzerd.”

    In terms of internet sabotage, I know that Chick-Fil-A was reamed when the owners took a stance against gay marriage. People posted things on the company’s Facebook page that would be un-repeatable in the mainstream media.

  5. I don’t know any of what the social media strategy at my company is because I work on advertising campaigns.

    I can’t think of a recent case of media sabotage that ruined a companies reputation. However, Chipotle recently faked getting their Facebook (I think) account hacked to gain followers. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but an interesting twist on the concept. I also found this cool infographic on which industries get the most complaints through social media:

    My preferred way to complain to a company is in person or over the phone, because I feel like it gets results the fastest. I’ve had friends have success complaining to companies over social media.

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