The Power of Social Media

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Recently, I experienced a small lesson in just how powerful social media really is. There are tons of articles detailing how companies are wrestling with how much attention to pay to social media, meaning, how effective is it really? As a CEO of a hi-tech startup, and a consumer, I can officially attest to the fact that it’s a medium that needs your undivided attention (ironic, since, most of these social networks are decreasing our ability to focus, but that’s for another post…).

Last night, I was out to dinner with my wife and we decided to try a local restaurant for the first time. The second we walked in the door I knew we were in trouble. The waitress wasn’t exactly the warmest and friendliest person we’ve met and that was quickly followed up by having to ask 3 times for a fork and some water (I guess I shouldn’t have complained that much as I did get a knife AND a napkin!).

Now, in fairness to restaurants (and other companies) out there, I understand that if things are really busy, sometimes customer requests can take a little time, but there were literally 2 other people in the restaurant when we arrived.

Forget that my hamburger was raw, we then had to wait more than 10 minutes to try and pay the bill while 5, yes FIVE, waitresses were standing around yapping away.  I did what any (modern-day) normal person would do and went on my iPhone to see if they had a twitter account I could vent to.  They didn’t, but I saw that a friend of mine (who happens to be a pretty well connected social media expert – @hilzfuld for those who want to learn a thing or two about social media) had recently responded to someone about local restaurants in our neighborhood.

I added my tweet to his conversation, stating that in the end the food was pretty good, but I had nothing but distain for the service. Then, to reinforce my point, I took a picture of the 5 waitresses standing around while we waited for service.

And then it happened. No sooner had I taken the picture to upload to twitter then the owner of the restaurant (who I hadn’t seen all night) comes running over to our table to ask if everything was ok, if we had any problems, etc.

We told him that it was a real shame, because while the food was quite good we would not be coming back because the service was so poor. I explained that I took the picture to upload to twitter to reinforce my point about the poor service in the restaurant.

He then personally apologized for the service, asked me nicely not to post the picture, explaining that getting a bad reputation on twitter and/or Facebook would be terrible for his business.  Not only did he apologize profusely again, but he also took 10% off our bill and gave us a gift certificate to come again on his tab to see how the service would be improved.

–All this because of one picture that was to be posted to twitter–

And what did I do? I followed up my original tweet with a number of complimentary tweets about the owner and how he turned our experience around.

On the way home, my wife, who is to put it mildly, the opposite of a social media expert, was surprised that the one picture and potential tweets could have such an immediate impact. I explained to her that as CEO of my company, I check twitter a number of times a day to see what people are saying about our brand and how we immediately respond to any questions or comments our clients and potential clients have about us.

In today’s day and age, with the speed that information changes hands, consumers have great power to help or hurt brands. As a business owner it’s our responsibility to not only provide a great service, but to also make sure that’s the message people are hearing about our brand. All it takes is one tweet to get the ball rolling for the good or the bad…..

Do you have any stories to share about how companies or yourself have responded to positive or negative feedback on social media sites?

-Jonathan Stefansky

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