2004 to 2005 saw the rise of the social era, mainly through the availability of new large scale web applications that facilitate content creation, sharing, syndication and social interaction. These web 2.0 technologies began to mature over the next few years leading up to the inevitable social media revolution.
Drowned Out by Negativity?
Many brands and large enterprises fear this social media revolution: a change of interaction and communication style where enterprises no longer have control over what the mass public can or will say about their brands. Moreover, the sheer volume of voices in the mass can easily overwhelm their corporate message.
If we look at one social channel, say the blogosphere; the total number of bloggers alone writing about a brand can number in the thousands. Employees at the company will be totally outnumbered. Moreover, these passionate bloggers often work diligently around the clock, 24/7. On top of that, there are also Twitters, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, and many other channels all over the world.
Negativity seems to be a major concern for these large corporate entities, and companies can't possibly hire enough people to deal with the mass public. So how can they deal with this frightening change? The best way to deal with the social media revolution is via social, and to leverage the power of the crowd, in other words crowdsourcing: Outsourcing a job that is traditionally performed by a designated group of people (e.g. employees or contractors) to a large undefined mass of people (the "crowd") in the pubic.
Using the Crowd as Your Advocates
If you fear negative reviews or negative WOM, take a look at the bright side. Forrester analyst Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff reported in Groundswell that positive WOM is typically much more prevalent then negative WOM. Specifically, the split is usually 80% positive and 20% negative. And if there are just not enough hands in your company to deal with the 20% of detractors, maybe you can try crowdsourcing to the other 80% of promoters and let them help you settle it the case.
Aside from being economical, crowdsourcing has the added benefit of being more credible and persuasive, because it is the voice of independent 3rd parties not related to the company. You may be surprised to find that you have more fans coming to your defense than you knew. The community has a tendency of exposing the truth, and silences those negative influencers who are merely looking for trouble.
But, on the other hand, if the fault is indeed on your side, then you should act responsibly and apologize to the public. Otherwise, you run the risk of lose even those 80% of positive voices. The famous "Dell laptop on fire" incident in 2006 is an example, where Dell handled their own fault very well on their community forum and resulted in much consumer support and confidence.
So negativity should not be the reason to fear the social world. As with everything, there are always risks. In the case of dealing with the social media revolution, as long as you don't abuse it, crowdsourcing the positive voices out there could have enormous benefits.