In the era before online marketing, a consumer was generally considered little more than an obedient cash cow who could be relied upon to march off to their nearest retailer at the sight of Dinah Shore belting out “See the USA in your Chevrolet” or Fred Flintstone lighting up a Marlboro. In that long gone Mad Men age the concept of catering to your customers’ emotional needs and facilitating their interactions with your company and each other would have seemed as likely as Klaatu’s flying saucer really landing in Washington DC.
Brand Advertising Is No Longer Monolithic
While in the Fifties brand advertising was essentially monolithic, where large corporations would project illusory images of men nattily attired in suits, ties and hats while women in frilly aprons punctiliously maintained spotless suburban homes, today’s social media has forced an entirely different paradigm on businesses. Interactivity has become the keyword of the decade and today’s consumer is just as accustomed to engaging in a bilateral conversation with a brand as they would have with their next door neighbor in the Ozzie & Harriet age. However, like in any other social interaction, not everything can be counted upon to proceed with calm, courtesy and peace in the online exchange of comments. Now that the social networks are strictly enforcing the “open commenting” model, there is not a single major brand page’s comments section that is not sullied to some extent with vulgar expletives, schoolyard taunts and outright bullying.
Your Company Could Be Seen as Facilitating Crude Online Behavior
Any brand operating an open presence on Facebook, Google+ or other similar social network is well aware of this problem. A customer will post a question or statement that might seem innocuous enough, but is soon assailed by others who criticize them with a severity that would be unacceptable in any face to face setting outside a federal penitentiary exercise yard. A level of resentment can be generated by the customer and those who sympathize with them, and it may not be limited exclusively to the other followers who are engaged in the bullying but against the brand itself, which is operating the page and thus in a way facilitating this crude behavior!
Pre-Populated Text Boxes Can Help Users Express Their Feelings
Facebook has actually held a Compassion Research Day where researchers from leading universities in the fields of human interaction in social settings were able to discuss ways to facilitate conflict resolution among online users. The social giant has applied what they learned as they now pre-populate text boxes where a user wants to ask another user to show more consideration, such as in the case where a photo is posted of them on someone else’s account where they’d rather not be shown. The canned message states: “Hey, I don’t like this photo, please remove it,” and the user is also able to change that text to anything else they deem suitable. Facebook found that including the preset text made the usage of that feature skyrocket, as faced with a blank text box many users were at a loss as to what to say.
Proactively Moving against the Instigators of Trollism
This precedent can be applied by companies on their own social networking pages to help defuse inflammatory situations between commenters. Offering a selection of predetermined phrases that attacked users could call upon as a reply, such as: “That comment was uncalled for and you should apologize,” or “Please do not engage in ad hominem attacks, let’s focus on the issue at hand” could help restore some element of cohesion among frazzled commenters. Even though such a policy might not completely end the online phenomenon of impersonal bullying, your brand would be seen by many as taking a proactive step to protect your more reasonable customers from the disheveled unruly ragged instigators of trollism.
Consideration for online customers is no longer limited to factors that directly affect their purchasing behavior, as today’s social media marketer must be aware that there are many other aspects where the consumer must be catered to and protected. Klaatu barada nikto!