The embracement of large companies use of social media to include its customer base has presented a new set of triumphs and challenges. Through providing their customer bases with the ability to participate in a dialogue with them, they have enabled customers to participate in marketing campaigns and conflict resolution. However, the dialogic interaction has also presented problems, and leaves these companies open to brand damage.
In Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction, Martin draws attention to “doubts about their audience’s editorial and ethical cpacities”, referencing a quote that highligts both the “wisdom of the crowds” as well as the “idiocy of the crowds” (2012, p.180).
Through connecting with customer bases through methods of social media, the companies (such as Woolworths) forfeit a level of control, over their public perception and what is published about them.
This can be seen in a blog post The biggest social media disasters in Australia (so far!), where McCarthy shows examples of this loss of control of Quantas, Woolworths, Coles and Tooheys New by their customers’ interaction with them on twitter and facebook.
In these examples, the companies have attempted to engage with their customer base through participatory marketing strategies that resulted in backlash or obscenity from customers.
Interaction with customer bases on social media is not always negative. Dialogic interaction provides the ability for large corporations to learn more about their customer base, as well as successes and failures of their products and services.
For example, this article demonstrates this ability for companies to learn from social media interactions. This case involved a billboard that illustrated their motto of “fresh food” with a picture of a donut, which was posted to facebook along with complaints. Woolworths responded to these complaints, stating that the billboard would be removed, and apologising for confusion and mistaken intention.
Martin, F. 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, in Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, Brugger N & Burns M (eds.), Peter Lang, New York, pp. 177-192.
McCarthy, F. 2012, ‘The biggest social media disasters in Australia (so far!)’, Tenth House, 2 August, accessed via http://www.tenthhouse.com.au/blog/the-biggest-social-media-disasters-in-australia-so-far/
Redrup, Y. 2013, ‘Woolworths social media success: Five lessons from the billboard scandal’, Smart Company, 27 February, accessed via http://www.smartcompany.com.au/information-technology/054379-woolworths-social-media-success-five-lessons-from-the-billboard-scandal-2.html