With social media marketing, comment is king.

Today I saw social media backfire on a company spectacularly.

They took quite a kicking. And it was their customers dishing it out.

A piece of professionally produced video which was sponsored to show up in peoples timelines popped up in my LinkedIn feed. It espoused the value with which the organisation held its business relationships.

It was from a company I have also had first hand (bad) experience of, so I took time to read some of the comments.

I’ve been away for over a month so it went back quite a way.

I read comments quite often if I’m interested in a topic, whether it be news, entertainment, reviews and so on. They add interest. They’re usually informative, honest and enthused and they are also sometimes completely unpredictable, terrifying, hilarious and furious. For marketers, it is a brilliantly blunt feedback mechanism.

I’m not alone in this opinion. Public or social customer comment and review is recognised as one of the most powerful forces in modern marketing.

So how then, did an enormous company with huge budgets get a simple social marketing spot so fantastically wrong? Answer – they didn’t give a moments thought to how people would react.

Now, this could have been a mistake in one of two veins. Option 1: They believed no-one would comment at all, expecting either clicks or nothingness. Option 2: They had no awareness of their brand image.

With the comments section suddenly overflowing with negativity, what did said company do to salvage their reputation…?

NOTHING.

That’s right, absolutely nothing at all. Having gone to the effort of creating a campaign espousing the importance of business relationships, they ignored everyone completely.

Over 100 angry customers telling this company their problems. No reply.

I struggle with companies who don’t tackle negativity on social media.

If someone made a complaint in writing to them or over the telephone – would they shred the letter? Put the phone down? Send the email to junk?

So is this contempt for their customers, or ignorance of how branding actually works in the modern age?

There’s a good definition of branding which is that branding is; “what people say about your company when you’re not in the room.”

This for years challenged marketers and researchers who were desperate to understand their customers on a personal level and to have real conversations.

Well now companies and customers are all in the same big social arena and suddenly public perceptions of brands aren’t so mysterious. They’re wide out in the open.

The question is, which companies will listen?