Dealing with social media

This blog is now just over one year old. In that short time, I could gather quite a bit of experience in dealing with US-based companies and their way of handling social media. Time to recap and give those companies a bit of advise.

Most marketing managers see social media as a very dangerous tool. Dealing with social media can give you very quick success or an even more rapid downfall. A well-planned marketing campaign can quickly turn into a marketing crisis, and in the eyes of many marketing managers, social media is therefore an acquired taste with unpredictable outcomes. But is it really unpredictable?

I personally don’t think social media is unpredictable, it is merely a paradigm shift. A while back, big corporations could sweep problems under the carpet and customers had little to no platform to voice their opinions on, and essentially, that is the part that marketing managers seem to be so afraid of: the customer’s opinion.

Attempting to sweep a problem under the carpet will usually create a marketing crisis when dealing with social media. This is called the Streisand effect and is named after Barbra Streisand, whose legal actions against images of her house sparked a wide interest in the images that otherwise would not have been there to begin with [1].

So far, I’ve to write few negative reviews but I usually have a few things listed in every product review that could be improved. Different manufacturers had different ways of responding. They ranged from “thanks for your feedback, we’ll fix it” to no response at all. The first response is great and most companies would have less problems dealing with social media if they’d save the sentence “thank you for your feedback, we’ll take care of that” as a boilerplate [2] somewhere and use it every time an issue comes up.

No reaction or no response is, in a way, the safe route but still undesirable. Companies should take feedback in social media (and anywhere else, for that matter) very serious and let the customer / reviewer know that they value their opinion.

Speaking of no response, Agilent has been contacted by me on at least 4 occasions. Every time I requested a demo device, the response time was usually less than 24 hours. They’d ask me what exactly I was planning on doing, and being fair, I would tell them that I have a blog and I’d like to review their products. And that was the end of it. Not once did I receive an answer after I explained my intentions. I mean of course, they want to sell something. And of course, my request is probably undesirable and of course, it’s their prerogative to not participate in such a review, but they could at least write a quick response saying that they are unable to participate or that they chose not to participate.

So if they already serve somebody, they know they will write about it on the web with the silent treatment, how will their customer service interact with other undesirable requests, maybe from paying customers? It’s not too difficult to imagine that the response is equally poor.

To be fair, I do understand that most sales managers are unfamiliar with social media and do not know what they can and can not do. And that brings me to Teledyne LeCroy. My first contact was not sure what he could and what he could not do, but he did the correct thing: he told me exactly that. Additionally, he clarified LeCroy’s position on this internally and got back with me. The rest is history to the frequent readers of my blog.

Teledyne LeCroy, Abracon and Jackson Labs are the top companies regarding response time, as well. Even though I am a non-paying customer and prospectful trouble maker, they respond very quickly at any time of the day whenever I have a question or an issue. And that’s exactly what people want to see. No product is flawless. No matter how hard the marketing guys try to bend the truth, perfection does not exist. And nobody understands this better than engineers, but engineers have little to no appreciation for poor customer support.

That was my rant of the day. I’ll make sure that Agilent gets a link to this article. Let’s see if we can break the silence.

Update (04/01/2013): I got one response from Agilent today in response of my most recent request of a demo license of Agilent’s RF design software Genesys.

Thanks for your patience. As this is more of a marketing request I needed to check in with our Genesys Product Manager and he has been on vacation. I apologize for the delay. Unfortunately I found out that Agilent does not provide software demo licenses to support blog reviews. That said, in the coming months we will be at some major RF/MW tradeshows (Wamicon, IMS/MTT) and Agilent would be happy to meet with you and provide a demonstration as well as answer any questions you have for a blog review.

Links and Sources:

[1] Streisand effect, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

[2] Boilerplate, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boilerplate_(text)

2 thoughts on “Dealing with social media

  1. Who are you trying to contact at these companies? You may be getting in touch with the wrong people. I know that Agilent and Tek have happily submitted demo devices to Dave Jones at EEVBlog, so I doubt it’s that they aren’t interested. They may just be prioritizing and hoping to find blogs that receive heavy traffic. You may just be too new still! That being said, you can probably find a local distributor to get a test unit, might be simpler than getting one direct from the manufacturer.

    • Mike, thanks for your comment. Again, it’d be perfectly fine if they don’t supply review devices or don’t want to work with me. That’ all good. But I’d still expect a response and not radio silence as answer. I don’t know if that’s clear from my article: Agilent communicated withe me, there was eMail flow until they realized I wanted to blog about their products. That’s when they entirely discontinued any communication. Maybe I did contact the wrong person, it’s possible. But again, that person could have indicated this. This rant was really not about getting equipment, I got what I need, it was merely about the communication point.

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