The Gold Medal Winner Is: Negative Publicity

  • February 26, 2014 at 7:56 PM EST
  • By Debbie Hauss
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Malfunctioning technology, brown water, poisoned dogs and sub-par hotels got more attention during the 2014 Winter Olympics than figure skating, downhill skiing, ice hockey and snowboarding. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most people. We love to dish on negative news, and social media has allowed us to spread the cheer instantaneously.

Case in point: the parody Twitter account @SochiProblems — created to document the difficult living situations in the Sochi Olympic Village — had 70,000 more followers than the official @Sochi2014 Olympic Twitter account.

Lesson learned? Businesses can turn rotten water into a golden river by tapping into the attraction of controversy and negativity. Many forward-thinking retailers already are ahead of the game when it comes to addressing bad reviews or complaints head-on, rather than head-in-the-sand.

“It’s important for business owners to join the conversation with their customers by responding — diplomatically of course — to their reviews,” said Darnell Holloway, Senior Manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, in a Q&A with Retail TouchPoints.


We all could likely share a recent positive and negative customer experience, potentially helped or harmed by social media. Here’s an example of how one of my own recent negative customer experiences turned into a positive for me and the business:

After a hotel stay, I received a survey via email to share my feedback. For the most part, it was a great experience. I just had one complaint, which I shared via the survey. In less than 24 hours I received an email from Eric, the Operations Manager, apologizing for the less-than-adequate customer service. He offered to personally take care of me during my next stay. I am now following the hotel chain on Twitter and I will definitely consider returning to that property. If I had not received a response from hotel management, I probably would not consider returning and certainly would not be following the company on Twitter.

To help retailers gear up for positive social media communications with customers, following lessons-learned during the Olympics, HipLogiq shared these 3 tips, that I think really hit home:

1: Tap Into Trending Topics — One brand that smartly took advantage of #SochiProblems was Clorox, which responded to a tweet about double toilets in a single bathroom with appropriate humor about a double headed toilet wand. Clorox’s tweet is a prime example of a brand leveraging a trending topic, making them a part of the social conversation and gaining exposure.

2: Comment On Real-Time Results Using Twitter — A gold medal social media strategy is for businesses to listen for tweets relevant to their product or service and engage immediately to participate in online conversations as they are happening.

3: Go Viral Like The Olympians — When bobsledder Johnny Quinn tweeted about busting out of his Sochi hotel bathroom, the hashtag #quinning quickly spread across the Internet. One of the main reasons this hashtag became so popular was people were able to easily participate in this trend by posting their own examples of #quinning.

I think every business can learn from the Olympics and transform rotten apples into gold.



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