I have recently diagnosed myself with GSMD – General Social Media Disorder. Within 10 seconds of my alarm clock ringing at 5am, I am checking Twitter, Facebook and a selection of online news sources. I do the same just before going to bed. And on the train. And before meetings. And over lunch. I am one of those passive GSMD people. I have nowhere near the 70 000 tweets compiled like some of my media colleagues. I am hovering somewhere in the region of 30 tweets and three Facebook postings a week. I was recently told that I was among the top five influencers of a particular corporate Twitter handle. Naturally, for complaining.
The organisation is in the transport industry and provides an essential service to me commuting between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Over the Christmas period, the organisation decided to change its transport schedule. Understandably, fewer people were travelling. The decision to change the schedule was likely to have been taken in a management meeting a few days before the festive season. Hence my surprise when I arrived at the station at the regular time only to find the next train departing in 40 minutes. I and many others were puzzled. Even the station management personnel had “not been informed”. I tweeted my displeasure but got no response. Perhaps they were inundated with frustrated commuters on that day. But a bit of an acknowledgement would have helped.
A few weeks later, I came across a fellow member of the twitterati in what appeared to be a spat with the same organisation about something that had happened to her at a station. She complained via Twitter, and received a response, directing her to lodge her complaint via the website, where it would be dealt with. There is apparently a ‘policy’ that complaints are only resolved if they are lodged via the ‘correct channels’. That is, ‘correct’ as determined by the company not the client. The client does not get to choose how and where to engage with the organisation, but the organisation does. Am I the only one thinking that picture is wrong? I jumped into the discussion, and asked ‘why’? In a few hours I received the most patronising responses of corporate communication drivel I could ever imagine. I was lectured on “standard procedures” (standard according to whom?) and company structures (why the complaint was handled by another organisation).
I am a consumer, interacting with a brand. I should be able to choose the method of interaction. If it says @brand, that should be my point of reference. Sort out your procedures internally; don’t make it my problem. If I want to complain in any way, through any medium, that should be my choice. And if you are offering it to me, listen to my concerns and take them seriously by responding to me in my preferred media, not yours.
This is a universal issue. In a media environment that has moved so quickly from traditional means of communication (print media, advertising, radio and email), organisations now have to contend with social media, with the same budgets and probably the same people. It’s a challenge. But too many organisations use social media because of peer pressure exacerbated by predictions of immediate reputational demise if they don’t, rather than understanding why and how.
Communication should not just be about what you have to tell others, but also about how to respond to what others are telling you. That is the new world of corporate communications. Now, back to nurturing my disorder.
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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