“People Have the Power” – a Social Media Story

In June of this year I declared (okay, I suggested) that “People Have the Power” was the social media anthem.

“… to wrestle the world from fools” (Patti Smith)

This past week, I experienced the power of social media – on the flip side – as a customer. Here is the scoop …

Like many, I hit a high frustration level with my cable provider. My ire started a few weeks back when the Philadelphia Phillies were in the playoffs and I could not watch them on TV because of a dispute between Fox Networks and the cable company. (Fox programming was pulled.) Then, in an unrelated event, I ordered DVR. The cable company was great with the sell, poor with the follow up service – even to the extent of messing up my bill.

I called customer service and despite having a very pleasant customer rep, they were inept at resolving issues. After getting absolutely nowhere, I took the issue to social channels. Here is my telling tale …

That evening on November 2nd out of pure frustration, I tweeted “Cable Company is the absolute worst. Can not believe what I just went through. The worst.”

I was actually surprised I did not get a response because when I tweeted about my displeasure of having Fox programming dropped a couple weeks back, I got an almost immediate tweet reply from the cable company pointing me to an article stating that Fox refused to go to arbitration on the matter.

So the next morning (11/3) I tweeted “Anyone know how to get Cable Company issues resolved? Wait on phone, answer questions, pass the call, disconnect. Help.”

Later that afternoon, I get an email … “I work in Cable Company’s PR department and saw on Twitter that you are having some issues. What’s going? I’d love try to help.”

Could it be? Finally help on the way? So I responded to my PR friend thanking her for the follow up and I highlighted a handful of my issues for her. I told her nothing was accomplished with “customer service” and asked her what the next steps were. The saga continues as the cable company works to get my settop box picked up and correct the erroneous billing. Not efficient, but at least they are working on it now.

Yes, there are a number of other well documented cases of the customer taking their issues to social channels: a) almost 10M views of a mistreated United Airlines customer that had his guitar broken by baggage handlers ; b) the story of Air Canada fixing a young boy’s wheelchair after a viral outrage – these are just two examples. Granted, my story did not get the mass of attention. But it did get the right attention from the cable company. The sad part is that customer service was completely non-responsive, but Cable Company’s PR person recognized the potential ramifications and looked to take some control.

(I would also note that I have used social media to publicly state “kudos” to companies that have demonstrated exceptional customer care.)

Now if you think about my experience, there are two perspectives you should consider. One as the customer and one as the brand delivering a product, service, or content to a target audience.

From a customer perspective, know it is YOU that sets brand reputation. While companies like to set their brand position, the power of the people is the one that defines the brand reputation. Use your power appropriate. Reward brands that deliver true value to you. Socialize their excellence. Don’t just be a whiner. If you have a gripe, take action only when warranted. People have a tendency to vocalize negative situations and not concentrate on positive scenarios and outcomes. Show some resistance and balance in your life and in your use of social channels directed at brand reputation.

From a brand company perspective, it is pretty simple. Be aware of the customer perspective as I just mentioned. Their new found power that social media makes possible, and your need and obligation to deliver true value. Your success is no longer defined by sales alone, but rather every element of the customers’ experiences. With this in mind, I have two points of guidance for brand companies:

1) To all those who are afraid to get active in social media for fear of someone else controlling brand – it is happening anyway. Get involved and influence your brand reputation.
2) Don’t think social media. Think of EVERYTHING related to the customer experience. If you follow this golden rule your batting average of success will be quite high.

Got a story to share on the power of people due to the social space? Have a perspective you’d like to share? Chime in.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing

15 responses to ““People Have the Power” – a Social Media Story

  1. Excellent Steve, I like the brand reputation statement. Recently talking to a possible client we discussed something similar on Twitter. She had a problem with a kettle and tweeted about it. The department store she bought it from saw this and called her by phone. Fantastic they requested she come to the store in Liverpool for a replacement[140 mile round trip ].

    I suggested to her what would have been so much better would have been to say sorry and a new ketle will be in the post/couriered round tomorrow with ‘we want to help’ added. I would have also thought about tweeting John Lewis have a replacement kettle for me BUT THEY WANT ME TO PICK IT UP!!!

    Another scenario I had myself 3 days ago tweeting about ‘Social Media Monitoring’ within 3o minutes two global software sellers had contacted me. One by phone to try and do a 20 minute online on phone run though, to me a cold call. The second sent a Twitter DM really nice with :)’s too. We then had a conversation around but not on the matter. This second contact also followed me on Twitter. All I can say I will more than likely tell people about Radian6 than the first caller. Whether I actually buy or advise clients to buy is another matter.

  2. RJ Stribley


    As a newbie to social I am carefully considering the impact to my company of getting active on social platforms. I’m a rookie, but it is abundantly clear to me that companies better adopt a ‘customer viewpoint’ quickly or suffer some potentially obtuse consequences. I have not done a ‘help’ tweet like your’s yet, but recently shared with @markwschaefer (after taking his class on social media and business) that I have rethought my own litmus test with regard to ‘any’ communication, in particular, email. Would I be comfortable with this communication being tweeted? Recently I was tempted to tweet a nasty email from a company I do business with, but abstained. The incident made me contemplate my own behavior, so there was value in the exchange.

    It will take time for most organizations to properly address the impact of social, but you are right…’power to the people’.

    Good post.


    • Bob,

      Thanks for your comments and straight up honesty. I have much respect for your willingness to completely assess your place in social media, and how you should approach it. As I stated in my previous post before this article, one must make conscious decisions of their “brand position” (even if personal) and reinforce that position via social channel communication.

      I am also happy to hear about your involvement with Mark Schaefer. I read him regularly and have spoken to him once. Truly a stand up great marketing mind and guy.


      • RJ Stribley


        Have a look at /www.scottkelby.com/blog/2010/archives/13958 if you get the chance. Scott Kelby (who has considerable celebrity (at least in my mind) is in the middle of a tussle with USAir… it makes a perfect fit here.


      • RJ – thanks for the example!

        Social Steve

  3. Interesting read… I had a negative experience with Tire Kingdom regarding a recent purchase of service last week. Posted multiple tweets, even completed the company’s online survey — still no response.

    Social Media provides business with many opportunities to enhance the brand experience and create brand ambassadors. But first, they have to be listening.

    • Alin –

      Thanks for sharing your experience. To your point Tire Kingdonm is not listening. The ramifications of this is that the negative socialization can grow as opposed to Tire Kingdom nipping the problem right away.

      Social Steve

  4. Steve-
    I find that the biggest thing stopping folks/businesses from adopting/engaging in Social Media is their fear of being talked about. But at least with Social Media…you know what they are saying and you can act. For those that are really interested, the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Breakfast on Novermber 17 @ 8am @ St. James Gate on Maplewood Ave. The Speaker is going to talk about Social Media and the Law. Anyone that would like to forward me a question in advance as an RSVP on the Maplewood Chamber Facebook page will get a $1 off the cost of the breakfast and the question answered.
    Hope to see you there.

    • Hi Rene,

      Been a while – hope things are going well for you. The point is that they are talking independent of the companies involvement in social media. With regards to Social Media and Law, just today, I referenced a very good article on twitter. Here it is … Coming to Grips With Social Media http://bit.ly/axOM95 (for the legal team).


  5. I’ve had similar instances… I was having issues with my gas (no hot water) and someone from Laclede Gas Company called me to see if it had been taken care of, so kudos from them! I should have asked what dept they were in….

    But a BAD example (and the one I share with people the most….) is with Redbox. We rented a DVD that wouldn’t play because it had scratches ALL over it. I saw that Redbox had Twitter so I tweeted @Redbox. In the meantime, we called customer service and they were AWESOME. When it was all said and done, I tweeted @redbox again to tell them what fantastic customer service they had…. They never acknowledge either tweet. Fail.

  6. Lakshmi

    Do people really have the power? I am reasonably skeptical about shame, or brand disrepute being a strong motivator. Case in point : See Amazon’s refusal to pull sale of pedophile-how to guide, even in the face of public outrage on twitter & FB. So really, is social media powerful enough to change corporate stance?

    • Yes – and there is also the case of the assistant attorney general in Michigan who did not initially fired for harassing an openly gay student – then finally did get fired. (Thank God) And there is the story of inequality for blacks in America and the fight of Martin Luther King. And a number of years later we elected the first black president. (I don’t mean to imply blacks have total equality here in America. There are certainly still a large degree of prejudice. But this is a positive step forward.)

      Not everything is fair and works out the way it should. Sometimes it does and takes way to long. But there are a number of cases that give me hope. Outside social media and inside social media. I learned a long time that world is not always fair. But I also learned to fight for what is right. Often, not always, things work their way out. Lakshmi, you know me … I am a fighter.

      AND I truly see social media being an effective channel to fight the fight. We can even look at how social media was used to tell the stories of innocent people’s injustice in Iraq and countless other scenarios. If you are skeptical, don’t use social media. For me, I’ve seen good changes by my own personal use and numerous other examples I follow daily.

      Fight the fight. Keep the faith. Make it happen –

      Social Steve

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