The Internet is a powerful tool. Allowing people to work from home, keep in touch with friends who are far away and shop for the best deals available, the tool that so many people love is also a tricky double-edged sword. In online forums and social networking communities, information can spread rapidly and soon travel around the world. However, that information is not always correct. Emboldened by the anonymity offered by this forum, people will put out misinformation and attack companies they are angry at. Using the power of the Internet, they can effectively shift public opinion with very little effort.
The Negativity Bias
Howard Lax of Customer Think calls it the “negativity bias.” This means that we are more in tune to negative information, process it faster, remember it longer and are more likely to share it. Retailers with a commitment to customer service spend time training their team that a customer will tell ten friends about a negative experience, but they will only share a positive experience with one or two people.
The Internet takes the phenomenon to the next level. With social media like Twitter and Facebook, they can make one callous post when they are still angry about an experience and instantly reach dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people. Their friends, family and fans will take note of the negative complaint and start associating the company with poor customer service.
Quality Control and Fact Checking Vanish
In the past, if someone wanted to write a commentary about a company or public figure, they had to get the information printed by a reputable source. They had to go through a magazine, newspaper or radio show. These agencies have fact checkers and they take great pride in maintaining a solid reputation. However, online anonymity allows anyone to print what they choose about companies. They can lie, misrepresent and take steps to smear a company without having the facts or fearing any legal consequences. Angry over a bad encounter or determined to “teach the company a lesson,” they can write-up a scathing review and post it in multiple places before giving it a second thought.
Using Twitter for Business
Mark Schaefer, author of Return on Influence understands how a natural inclination towards negativity, the lack of fact checking and the speed of the Internet makes Twitter a powerful tool that can hurt businesses. However, he shares that Twitter can become a company’s ally when used in the right manner. In the past, companies never heard from unhappy customers. Without the feedback, poor business practices were allowed to continue and it would lead to a steady decline in traffic.
Working Twitter into their marketing strategy, they can overcome this challenge. Connecting with people on Twitter allows them to be aware of complaints that are being shared on Twitter. Finally having access to this valuable feedback, allows them to make valuable shifts in product lines, quality control standards and customer service to improve customer relations. They can also put out special deals and sales via Twitter to help build brand loyalty and overcome the negative effects of complaints.
The speed of the Internet and social media forums like Twitter is a double-edged sword for businesses and individuals alike. While you appreciate being able to reach a large audience, this can work against you if a customer has a bad experience and decides to publicize it. However, businesses can overcome the negative bias by making better use of the Internet and forums like Twitter.