Consumers are talking, and it probably isn't a surprise that nearly every business across the board has come up in online conversation at least one time or another. However, it can be a bit of a shock to brands when they start to listen to these conversations. There's usually some positive conversation that makes them feel pretty good, but that usually isn't the case 100% of the time.
The power of anonymity and distance has encouraged consumers to share their opinions about brands, products and services without holding back. For too long consumers have been burned by poor customer service and relatively few outlets to vent frustrations. Now, their opinions are out there in all of their glory, and those opinions usually carry weight when others who are considering a purchase research.
It's easy to get defensive when these come up. There's a desire to try to explain why things are the way they are or why something happened. After all, businesses are made of people who, for the most part, are trying the best they can to deliver the best product possible. It can be easy to take negative opinions personally.
However, the real value of all content, negative and positive, is that it may reveal something a brand could never see about itself otherwise.
Online Content is a Reflection of the Customer Experience
Brands touch consumers in countless ways. Whether you are a store a customer visits or a product a customer uses at home, the motivation to post online starts offline. When products or services fail miserably or perform remarkably, they are deemed worthy of an online mention.
Offline action breeds online dialogue, which means the conversation happening about a brand in the social space is only the symptom of something much deeper. The tweet about long lines in the store may mean there are problems at the operations level. The review about the camera easily breaking might reveal faulty manufacturing.
Online consumer generated content doesn't come out of nowhere. It starts with the offline experience.
Inform the Business to Grow the Business
There are certainly actions that can be taken to help a brand's online reputation, but without an inside-out approach, these efforts don't lead to loyalty and only coverup problems that will resurface.
The true value of listening is using what is heard to inform action to move forward and get better. Honesty can be tough to take, but it's only through honesty that true insights can be revealed.