The No. 1 reason Jamaican companies are scared of Social Media (updated with Turn Around Case Study)

Yesterday I was interviewed by Yvonne Nicholson, Business Communications Consultant with ROCommunications Jamaica and Jamaica Observer columnist on Why businesses fear social media.  Her column was  published today in the Jamaica Observer and I was quoted a couple of times. You can read the article here “Why businesses fear social media”.

It reminded me also that I had written a similar blog post on this same issue November last year “The Number 1 reason Jamaican companies are scared of Social Media”. So I decided to update it, add a case study I usally talk about in my workshops and repost it below:

Social Media and all its multiple touch points (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, social networks,share buttons and Forums) scares some Jamaican companies and a few Caribbean ones too. They are afraid to put their company, its products and services up to public scrutiny. “What do we do when we get negative comments ?”  This is the most popular response I’ve heard over the last year from some company executives as they’ve assumed that is all they will happen when they “put themselves out there”. The two other typical responses have been “Why do we have to be so directly connected to people online ? ” , and “Ok ok so if we are really going to place ourselves out there who is going to manage it ?”

Let me address the # 1 reason Jamaican companies are scared of going online and using Social Media.

What do we do with all those negative comments?
This is just fear right ? or is it that some companies realises that their products and services, are mediocre and they are just afraid of people telling it to their social media faces on twitter, in forums and on Facebook. As we now know, consumers are always talking about your brand, company, products and services anyway, offline and online. It’s just that what they are saying, negative or positive, now spreads faster and to more people than ever before, because they are spending more time online and using all those share-it tools they have at their fingertips.

The point companies need to understand however, is that consumers are not doing anything new, they are just doing it in a different space, faster, better and sharing it with alot more people. And yes and that’s scary isn’t it? So I get it, companies feel totally out of control.

The Typical company is so used to building a product, getting a focus group to agree with it, then swamping the market with buy-it-now advertising on television, radio, in the newspapers and magazines. That’s called PUSH marketing. The company rationale was,the more we PUSH it, the more money we spend to get our advertising messages out there,  the more they’ll remember us and then eventually they will go buy what it is we’re trying to sell them.

Consumers are now in control, they get to cherry pick.

We’re in the digital age, where consumers have greater access to information, enjoy a wider range of choices available to them that ever before. They are now in control. They can now research your company, product or service, get details, seek recommendations from friends, and if your product or service is in di runnings… is part of that social mind share you win, if not , well, your goose is cooked and you’re pretty much ignored.

Consumers are now in control, they get to cherry pick, to PULL to them what they like, what their friends recommend, so it’s up to companies to provide the brightest, sweetest cherry possible so they get  recommended, shared, selected and eventually bought. So the back patting and the-have no-other-choice-but-to-buy-my-product sale days have ended for the smug, non-evolving and average company. Yippee for consumers. Boohoo for some companies.

And again one can argue, so what if you get negative comments, how about the adage of constructive criticism makes your brand stronger. Negative comments can also be seen as great feedback,  free market research, consumers wanting to share with you how you can make your brand better so you can win their business.  The beautiful thing about finding a negative comment in the social media space, is that if you are present, you are the immediate opportunity to turn things around and in front of everyone who’s watching, listening and connected to the person to said it. Traditional media doesn’t allow you to do that kind of response and turn around opportunities. So companies should focus instead on what they can do.

How to Turn Things Around

So what do you to do with negative comments you face them, answer them, turn them around. The beautiful things is that you get to do this in real time, with an audience and the rewards are great.

Short Case Study: Restaurant Cocoro. My 10 friends and I are serious sushi lovers and we’d never gone to Cocoro at Mayfair Hotel before. We went and ate a table feast of food and drink, laughed and had a great time. It was about 15 minutes to closing time, when George the waiter brought our bill. Since we were going dutch we asked him for a few minutes to go through the bill and get our monies straight. He stood there. AFter about 2 minutes, and watching us pass the bill around, George Obviously impatient he said to my friend AUdley, if we’re ready as yet. Audley working the calculator answered, not as yet, please give us a few more minutes. George sighed, then retorted ” Well the cashier needs to go” ” Do You need a bigger calculator,” By this time the table erupted in whoa…rude..did he just say that?.

What happened next: We left Restaurant Cocoro and about almost all of of us went immediately to our Facebook Fan Pages and wrote a note ( The Facebook blog facility) about our really awful experience and why we’re not going back. The multiplier effect of our action was that with each of us having an average of 500 friends, our notes which when published shows up in our profile feed and the news feed of our friends – reached 5,000 people before morning.

How Restaurant Cocoro redeemed themselves: Someone saw the note written and circulated by one of us and somehow told the owner Mr Sawada who contacted my friend Audley, apologised, then offered us all free dinner and drinks on the house to come and have a different experience at Cocoro. We went, had a ball and went back online to share our great experiences.

Now that’s how you turn around a negative comment into a great customer experience that bolsters your brand.

Unsolicited Advice
So my unsolicited advice to Jamaican companies tentative about going online and jumping into social media marketing and online advertising is:

1. Know Before You Go. Approach going online and going into the social media space as you would anything else-Know Before You Go. Do your research before you spend a dime. Go to Facebook and Twitter and use the Search facility generously. Set up Google Alerts. Consult with Google Trends. Go to local, regional directories, forums, blogs and just listen and observe initially. See what people are talking about, which brands, see what they are saying about your brand, your competitor. Observe how they are using the social media tools. This is always a crucial first step in understanding the lay of the land before you devise a strategy that is best for your brand.

2. Seek and hire professionals, now is not the time to be an el cheapo negro and be quick to hire anyone with a foreign accent and the glossy gift of gab or worse your 16 year old son or niece…unless of course you would allow them to also run your company.