Social Media’s Warning Label

social media in action warningWhen hazardous chemicals are transported, it is required that warning signs or placards are displayed which warn of the inherent danger. Those placards are carefully coded to not only visually alert emergency personnel that hazardous are being transported but they also warn WHAT TYPE of hazardous material is involved.

When emergency personnel respond and see the placard – they know immediately how to respond to the emergency at hand.  The nature of chemicals being what they are, this keeps well meaning firemen from dousing a trailer which is leaking corrosive liquids with water which would result in creating flammable gases.   However, the same trailer leaking the same chemicals when covered with ash yields a much better outcome.

It would be nice if one of the steps to starting a small business included a similar Social Media Warning Label or Placard.

The Social Media Warning Label would be a labeling system which could warn business owners to the possible dangers which lie ahead with regards to how a given situation is going to play out online in the world of Social Media. What you don’t know about Social Media CAN hurt you

Use of this early warning symbol system could have alerted Graham Langdon that he was engaging with a force of nature when he locked horns with the legendary Turnip of Power.  The resulting battle was literally the driving force behind the launch of an obviously formidable competitor to Graham’s online business.

This fanciful social media warning label could also alert a business owner that a new customer was the author of a popular blog.  In a perfect world, every business would treat EVERY customer as if they had access to a popular, well indexed blog.  Oh wait – with over 112 BILLION blogs being indexed by Technorati – and the ability of anyone with a Facebook profile to create a Facebook Fan Page – maybe you SHOULD treat every customer you do business as if they have easy access to the most powerful tools of social media – because they do!

Not only do most of your customers have have access to the power tools of social media – they’re willing to use them.

Most bloggers LOVE to write about their adventures in customer service. These tales of deception and daring contain all the elements necessary to weave a compelling tale.  We have our hero or heroine (the blogger) and the evil villain (in the words of Betsy Wuebker, the hapless purveyors of mediocrity)  locked in mortal combat.  In these tales, we often relate best to the blogger in question because we’ve been locked in a similar battle as well.   When the melee of a social media shit storm is launched by a creative genius – it’s even more entertaining to watch.

With that said, the social media warning label can only help the business owner who understands that the very nature of social media is to remove the veil which separates customers from the proprietors of the business in question.

The ensuing transparency- which is an essential element of social media- literally serves to strengthen the relationship between a business and its customers.

Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes the strengthening of the connection and relationship that comes from social media marketing. I was recently reading a book recommended by Lori Hoeck of Think Like a Blackbelt in which the author of the recommended book asserts that every relationship by natures causes discomfort.. a.k.a. “pain”.

In the case of the business owner, developing a deeper connection or relationship with your customers can often mean the discomfort of discovering that your “labor of love” needs some additional work.

Which brings us to the illuminating tale shared by Blogger Dad in his blog post Letter to an unnamed cookie company.  In the initial blog post, he showed incredible restraint by not NAMING the company in question, but sharing in exquisite detail his EXPERIENCE of dealing with the cookie company.  The blog post gives us a vivid and rare
glimpse from the point of view of a NEW customer what it’s like to do business with us.

To gain such information via a formal “market research” study would not only be prohibitively expensive for a small business – but it could never be as illuminating as this eloquent tale of customer acquisition shared extemporaneously via this blog post.

Unfortunately, the company who saw themself in the post did not see the beauty of a unique and important point of view.  The company owner tried a “quick fix” to make the situation “better” by sending more cookies and a letter of explanation. (At least she didn’t try to bribe other bloggers to write phony positive reviews…see Social Media – Information Moving in Real Time!!!)

In true social media fashion, the letter the company president wrote to the blogger is shared via the post Letter to a Sarcastic Blogger from a Cookie Company.

Blogger Dad says it all when he writes:

The line, “it would have been nice of you to come to me directly, instead of posting your unhappiness to the world.” Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with this blog, but that is kind of what I do around here, I sometimes post my unhappiness to the world. It’s cathartic and people relate.

Typically, when I have an issue with a company, I don’t complain. There was a time that I did, but usually complaints rarely seem to matter. Most people who are unsatisfied with a company don’t complain to the company directly, they simply tell their friends.

In this case – Blogger Dad has quite a few “friends”… friends with blogs.  Sometimes, I think those friends may be more powerful than friends with guns.  At least guns have to be in someone’s hands to cause damage.  A bullet eventually stops.  It doesn’t build up steam, gain momentum or live forever!


Your customers have NEVER contacted you first when they were unhappy with your product or service.  They have ALWAYS bitched to their friends and family. The first course of action has NEVER been to pick up the phone can call the company.  Instead, poor customer service tends to sounds more like this…

“Honey!  Would you come in here and LOOK at this mess that arrived in the mail today?”

There’s the whole “moral imperative” aspect to social media which drives us to share. When I thought I was picking up a bag containing hand sanitizers and discovered they were condoms – I blogged about that experience as well.  It’s not just about bitching about poor customer service – that gets old after a while.

However, I can understand the other side of it… when you’re a business owner who discovers that a blogger is bitching via a Google Alert – all you see is that dagger in the form of a blog post – aimed at the heart of your beloved business.

Just when I think Jason may be right – that everyone knows by now how permanent and powerful this whole “social media” communication stuff is-  well, in the words of Michael Corleone in the Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”


  1. I can’t help thinking that social media will eventually make the majority of companies better at their customer service. This is a good thing. But we’re in a transition period now. Social media is such a new thing that people maybe aren’t quite sure what to do.

  2. It is new – and it’s unusual for a business to be able to SEE what customers are saying. Again, the fact that customers are talking is nothing new. The fact that we can SEE what our customers are saying – and the “legs” those conversations now have – is what has changed DRAMATICALLY!

    Suddenly, customer service is going to HAVE to become a higher priority – because it’s going to start falling under “marketing” – and ahead of “advertising”.

  3. Kathy,

    It is really quite important nowadays to maintain a high level of customer service, because just as you stated, people are talking and now they are talking virtually. This impact grows larger and stronger with the blog communities and networks out there and no little fact is left behind. Once a customer experiences service (either good or bad), there is no doubt it will be blogged about and spread through the internet instantly.

    It’s funny – before social media gained such momentum, businesses were able to “control” and “monitor” what their customers were saying and how they were saying it, but with this social media impact – there is no turning back now!

    Insightful and inquisitive read! Love your metaphors and depth analysis!
    .-= Daniel Pry´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  4. Daniel – WELCOME! It’s definitely a brave new world online AND offline thanks to social media!

  5. Thank you for the mention and link!

    My favorite quote as a writer in my early years was “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Time for a revision on that quote to update it, yes?
    .-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..Five traits of a narcissistic ‘crazymaker’ =-.


  1. […] It’s not just HIS blog where he shares his happiness and unhappiness with the world – there are over 112 BILLION blogs being indexed by Technorati doing the same.  Maybe when it comes to the internet, this new “social media marketing” thing ought to come with a social media warning label. […]

  2. […] While my friend can decide to “opt out” of the whole social media game to preserve her online reputation – it’s not an option for business owners.  When you make a sale to a blogger – ready or not, your business must be prepared to enter the wild, wonderful world of social media. […]