You can’t just spend your way to success in social media advertising. You can have the best research, personas, targeting, messages and creative – and still miss the mark.
Why? Because your customers and prospective customers get a vote. They can and do comment on paid promotions as this advertisement for AT&T Fiber demonstrates.
“Switch to fiber internet from AT&T for $40/mo + taxes when bundled,” reads the ad copy. It includes a link to a landing page with the offer.
As I write this post, there are 450+ likes, 50+ retweets and 200+ comments (screenshot nearby). At first glance it seems great, the brand is seemingly benefiting with some organic lift stemming from its paid efforts. However, when you examine the comments more closely, you’ll see many of the comments are negative.
Here are some examples of the verbatim comments:
“Service is meh and they will not allow any port forwarding so some of your home devices may not work and they could give two craps. Xfinity & Charter Spectrum allow the port forwarding with no issues. Much better service with xfinity and I thought I would NEVER say that.”
“You guys are constantly changing my bill which is supposed to be under contract. I deeply despise having to pay for your monopoly services. Such a sleazy business model that will eventually destroy you. Customer experience matters. Why does this continue to happen?”
“I just signed up for the 300 mbps last Tuesday, and I have called the End User for more than because the internet keeps disconnecting and reconnecting by itself. Why I’m having this issue even after the inside technician just left my house? I still have 25 days to cancel it!”
“tbh, if I could switch I would, but you won’t ever offer this service in my area, and even if you did it’d be several years in the future. If I acaully [sic] had a CHOICE to use a different ISP, I would. but I’m stuck with you.”
Holy moly, right?!
Would you buy a service from a company with customer references like that? And that’s just a few comments. There’s more where that came from. The notion of social proof work both ways — it can help you or hurt you. Once you get a few brave and unhappy customers to speak out, the mob shows up and it can get away from you quickly.
If You Didn’t Realize it, Here’s Your Sign the Digital Feeback Loop is Faster
The whole cycle – the feedback loop moves way faster than ever before. You just never had to worry about this sort of thing, at this scale, in a world of print ads and billboards.
Today, when you get ad through approval and into market…your job isn’t done. You still have to be on it, managing, facilitating and responding to comments.
To their credit, the team behind @ATTCares is making an effort to respond to some of the criticism, but the effort is robotic and surely hamstrung by corporate rules. I just don’t see that making a difference here – you slow this by being human and you stop it by fixing the root cause.
The problems may be deeper too. As an investor with a (very) modest amount of stock in AT&T, I know the company has taken on a lot of debt to acquire Direct TV and Time Warner. The CEO has recently made rounds on The Street to sell analysts on the idea the company will pay down debt by cutting promotional discounts, raising prices and retaining customers.
For sure, Twitter is not the real world. Perhaps the marketing team has private data to show the conversions vastly outweighs the negative comments we can see publicly. Yet still, this tiny little data point is not aligned with the corporate narrative, and that’s being demonstrated in a very public way during a crucial period of time for the company.
Build Cross-functional Teams Empowered with Compassion and Humanity
AT&T isn’t the only company facing this problem. I see this sort of thing all the time because businesses still operate marketing in output-only mode – and they take a beating in the comments. The next time you see an advertisement in your stream on any social platform, just pause for a second and take a look at the comments.
To that end, I have several recommendations along these lines:
1) Bring in cross-functional expertise.
Organizations that invest in social media advertising of any volume will find, it’s worth your while to bring a cross-functional team together. For example, bring your PR and customer service teams into the advertising planning process. If you identify possible criticisms in advance, you are better prepared to deal with them when they occur.
2) Make it really easy to complain another way.
Part of the reason people lose their minds about customer service on social media is pure frustration. They’d love to tell a company what they think privately, but company’s make sharing an opinion hard, because they really don’t want to hear it.
They send emails from “no-reply” addresses and that have phone maze that takes 20 minutes of wasted time to navigate to a real human. These things save the company time, but it wastes their customers’ time. So, when customers are frustrated already, and you shove an ad into their social stream, they are already primed to share with the world what they think about you.
The way to reverse this is to make easy for customers to complain. You might even learn something in the process.
3) Empower the social team with compassion and humanity.
Businesses should genuinely empower the social team. The sterile corporate phrases like “please DM us and we’ll look into this” isn’t enough in this situation and it reflects poorly on the organization in public visible comments. Instead, you need a team with the training, experience and empowerment to respond with compassion and humanity to a savvy consumer that isn’t afraid to share their opinion.
4) Take steps to fix the problem.
There’s an old saying that good marketing will make a bad product fail faster, so if there’s a problem, you’ve got to acknowledge the problem and go fix it. If you try to dance, or “message” around a problem without acknowledging it because you want to have a “positive spin” on things, people will see right through you and write you off. In this example, there is clearly a disconnect between the message of the promotion – and the commentary around service levels and quality of customer service.
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This particular example is a classic illustration of how the web has changed marketing. Certainly, there are fundamentals that are still true, but you have to be cognizant of what’s changed. If you aren’t, you’ll spend a bunch of money learning about it.
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