Social Media Mistake #2: Try to manipulate it

social media communicationThe first installment in the Social Media Mistakes series covered the “ignore it and hope it will go away” mistake.  The second mistake is usually the next misstep businesses make with social media… they try to manipulate it.

In the blog post, Social Media Marketing – what you don’t know CAN hurt you! I share the story of how Belkin – a manufacturer of electronics – got caught in an attempt to play the social media marketing game by gaming those results.

Rather than rely on customers to post real reviews of Belkin products- they decided to advertise and offered to pay for post positive reviews.  Their advertisement was seen by Arlen Parsa who happened to have a blog.  Even though he’s not a reporter, he broken the story like a pro in Exclusive: Belkin’s Development Rep is Hiring People to Write Fake Positive Amazon Reviews.  Other bloggers saw this post, picked up the story and carried it as well.  Suddenly, Belkin has a PR problem.

Fortunately for Belkin, they weren’t new to the web so this “scandal” didn’t eclipse their long established web presence.  It’s still there – but it’s never reached #1 on a search for just the business name.  The same wasn’t true of the Cash4Gold Social Media Meltdown.  Cash4Gold actually had to launch an AdWords campaign on their own brand because the scandal stirred up by social media eclipsed their measly online presence.

For many businesses their first foray into the wild and wonderful world of social media is when they discover a social media shit storm (links to a story about United Airline’s own social media PR disaster) has erupted and their beloved brand is at the epicenter.  They come face to face with a disgruntled customer’s blog post  and the first order of business is to get rid of it.

It’s human nature.  None of us wants a blog post lambasting our business out there for all to see.  It’s even worse when the blog posts has comments that say, “Glad I found this – I won’t be doing business with these guys.”  That has happened on my own bitchy blog post, “When the Pest Control Company is your most Annoying Pest!

As a business owner, you need to understand that social media users tend to feel a type of social media moral obligation to share their experiences with their online tribe. This is nothing new – people have always felt compelled to share their experiences with others – the difference now is that sharing is “etched” in the stone which is the most comprehensive directory mankind has ever created

Important take away for business owners and brand managers

Recognize that social media is giving customers a voice – their complaints can no longer be counted as “customer noise“.   With that in mind, remember that the web is usually not the FIRST step in an effort to resolve an ugly customer service situation.  In the case of United Airlines – it took SEVERAL disrespectful interactions before Dave Carroll composed his now famous ditty.  (Read What to do when Social Media creates a Shit Storm for more on this story.)

Had Dave Carroll’s experience been “unique” – had he been the only one who was treated with blatant disrespect by United Airlines – his attempts to share his story would have fallen on deaf ears.  Instead, there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people who have had similar experiences with United.  They connected with Dave’s authentic experience – thus the viral nature of Dave’s musical retort.

This is why most attempts at manipulating social media fail miserably.  There seems to be a built in “bullshit detector” in social media. Maybe it’s that you can’t fool all of the bloggers all of the time… but for whatever reason – I have yet to see an example of an inauthentic customer complaint getting any traction online.

If you’re a business owner or brand manager – and you see bad buzz in social media about your company – the absolute FIRST step is NOT to try to “manipulate” the situation. Your first job should be to assess and correct the situation internally.

Diagnose and correct the problem – then make your apologies.  You might be surprised how willing people are to forgive you and your employees when you authentically make amends.   You also might be surprised how an inauthentic response can actually make the situation worse in the long run.


  1. ha – totally agree, it’s all about being honest. If you can be honest when you make a mistake, whether you are a massive corporation or just one lonely guy with a keyboard and a mouse – then people will respect you, and a far more likely to forgive your mistake. If on the other hand you try and cover it up, the cracks will begin to show.
    .-= Amelia Vargo´s last blog ..SEO Video Blog – Searched Based Keyword Tool – #32 =-.


  1. […] capitalist society:  How can we profitize it?  How can we use it to make more money?  How can we game the system better than the other […]