Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading Attack of the Customers – which looks at the power that consumers have in a social media-enabled world and how organisations need to operate in this environment.
Having read plenty about this topic online over the years, I was slightly cynical that a book – yes, a real book made out of paper and all – would offer much more value than the diversity of online comment and thinking on the subject could.
But I am more than happy to admit that my cynicism was misplaced.
The book provides a well thought out and evidenced explanation of social media “attacks” and how they happen. It uses a range of case studies to do this and looks at the motivations behind the different kinds of online confrontation that organisations might experience – both private and public sector.
There’s a good chapter looking at how the different types of social media site can be used by “attackers” to mount effective campaigns – which is a useful analysis for both communicators seeking to defend their organisation using social media and for those looking to use social media to mount pro-active campaigns of their own.
The authors also take a look at the relationship between mainstream media and social media in these confrontational situations – and how an online crisis can easily translate into a more traditional mainstream media crisis.
As well as a range of examples Paul and Greg also set out how they consider organisations can work to prevent social media “attacks” taking place. Their recommended approach is a combination of a well planned and executed online listening programme – to spot problems before they morph into crises – and undertaking an online influencer programme – systematically identifying and engaging on a one to one basis with those people in online networks who have the potential to wield greatest influence with your target audience.
And for when the crisis hits they have some sound thinking on strategies that can be taken during the crisis and recovery phases. Much of this will be familiar to communicators used to operating in a crisis situation, but the social media focus is really helpful in providing practical tips on what to do during a social media crisis – although I’d recommend reading the book well before you reach that point!
What’s most interesting is their thinking on what constitutes an “attack-proof” organisation – or at least how to be as “attack-proof” as possible. They contend that the only sustainable route to avoiding social media firestorms is to deliver such great customer experiences that the impact of the inevitable small scale attacks don’t snowball into something larger – because your customers are such strong advocates and defenders of your cause.
So in effect they’re saying that a strong brand – delivered through a managed customer experience at those moments of truth that really matter – is key to making your organisation more resistant to brand damage through social media. This, of course, is that branding is all about – and is no different to how things were before social media came along and changed the game.
Disclosure: free review copy of the book supplied