Another example has emerged of the power of social networks to chasten even the biggest organisations who don’t behave in the right way. This time it is Virgin Media.

The story started when Jim Boyden posted on the Virgin Media Facebook page that his deceased father-in-law had received a bill and a fine for late payment, despite his family having told Virgin that the customer had passed away. Virgin Media undoubtedly has many thousands of customers and it is probably the case that they usually handle situations like this fairly and sensitively. But not this time.

This time, Mr. Boyden took the opportunity to have a little dig at Virgin Media publically, on their Facebook page

I’ve just placed a little reminder on their Facebook page. This actually amused me to start off with, but their complete lack of response irks me somewhat

Whether or not Virgin Media should have done something different is not the subject of this post. But the point that social networks provide both huge opportunities and at the same time significant risks, is worth taking note of. The BBC quotes Dr Lisa Harris, head of the digital marketing masters programme at the University of Southampton as saying:

Corporations are very good at promoting themselves, they recognise that everyone needs a Twitter and a Facebook account, they are aware the networks exist but they don’t have the strategies in place to deal with the issues that can arise from those networks

The BBC goes on to report that BT Head of Customer Services Warren Buckley confirms that 40% of its customer feedback now originates on Twitter – feedback that can be positive or negative.

So if you have recognised the potential benefits of social networks and you are already using them (or about to start) how much have you thought about how to avoid the pitfalls of allowing customer and stakeholders a soap-box from which they can acclaim – or criticise – your company, brand or services? Sooner rather than later might be the best time…


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