As a 'social media expert' or 'internet marketing consultant' I have seen some companies handle their engagement with social media very poorly which has damaged their brands, in some cases irrevocably.
I run an SEO company (www.warlockmedia.com) and constantly advise clients on how to enter the world of Social Media and how to benefit from it.
In my opinion social media isn’t a mature enough industry to gain a consistent stream of income. We have conducted tests and the overall feeling is that while we can get potential customers to websites, getting them to engage is very difficult and has usually resulted in a poor ROI.
This is especially true when attempting to get people to complete a transaction. I’m sure one day it’ll be possible to use Facebook and Twitter as reliable marketing avenues but I truly feel that they are best placed for brand building or brand protection at this stage. That doesn’t mean to say that normal consumer business, be it the travel industry or anything else doesn’t have its place in the world of social media.
People constantly look for signals that something is of quality and is a worth spending their money on. In the olden days, this was almost exclusively restricted to 'word of mouth' as a signal of quality or at a push perhaps some PR in some traditional media.
However, with the advent of the internet, it’s been easier than ever to find information good or bad on a company. Unfortunately, it leaves businesses highly exposed to negative press which can be through disgruntled customers or even competitors that wish to damage the brands of the competition in order to gain an advantage.
At the moment, I think companies and brands should focus their attention on brand management or even brand protection. This is because social media is just another signal that consumers look to verify whether the company that is just about to sell them a product or service is legitimate and offers what can be construed as value for money.
The human mind works in weird and wondrous ways and sadly negative comments can cause ghastly effects on a business, even if they are blatantly untrue and there are only a handful of negative comments to a majority of positive reviews.
People just don’t want to take the risk with their hard-earned cash. They would rather go to a company with far fewer positive reviews but no negative ones, go figure.
Tweeting about something takes just a few seconds but the effects can be devastating for a company. Brands and companies alike need to treat customers and Social Media with respect and caution, never before have companies been so vulnerable.
My advice is to offer the best service you possibly can and deal with complaints quickly and efficiently. If you do find that you have some criticism levelled against you or your company, try to deal with that problem at source and see if you can possibly get the comment removed or amended as quickly as possible.
Conversely, companies need to encourage positive reviews and comments so that their brands are protected and strengthened online, should a negative comment raise its head, it would be easier to swallow if there are a thousand positive comments around it.