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Social media can have big impact on your reputation

The impact of social media is all the rage these days. Often simply referred to as “the buzz," it’s also now formally called consumer-generated media. Basically, CGM refers to a variety of sources for online content that is created, initiated, circulated, shared and used by consumers who are intent on educating others about businesses, products and services. It often informs by relevant experience and is typically archived online for access by other consumers.

With the growth of social media like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, a not-so-pleasant experience for you might wait just a click or two away. It’s dubbed the “online review.” These days, companies selling just about anything are monitoring the CGM scene to track what people are saying about them and what issues are being discussed. Just Google your company name or brands and it’s possible you could be reading about your performance or, perhaps, the lack thereof.

CGM reminds me of a business professor I had in college who taught that people who are treated well by a business tell one or two others while those who are treated shabbily tell 20! Now, in the ever-growing blogosphere with social media, countless bulletin boards and discussion forums, people can complain to thousands, even millions, if a company fails to treat them right. Clearly, the social network explosion has put a lot of power in the customer’s hands.

Who can forget musician Dave Carroll who was given the runaround by United Airlines for six months after it smashed his guitar. Carroll finally wrote a song -- United Breaks Guitars -- about his experience. Posted on YouTube in early July, it has been viewed by more than 6 million people. You think United should not have given Carroll the runaround?

Knowing what people are saying about you is important. Reviews that are negative can mean potential customers will avoid heading your way. They can also deter suppliers from doing business with you. But dealers don’t have to “just take it,” especially if there’s an unmerited negative review by someone.

To take the offensive, ask satisfied customers if they would share their experiences online. Moreover, in the case of a bad review, experts advise that you don’t have to accept someone’s negative comments as the last word. Rather, you should immediately attempt to dialogue with the customer. After all, a customer with a gripe might be encouraged to change the comments or even remove the post altogether.

When a bad review surfaces, an apology goes a long way, Lisa Barone recently told the Wall Street Journal. She is a co-founder of Outspoken Media Inc., a Florida-based Internet marketing company. "Most people just want to be heard," she says. "They just want to know you're listening and you care, and that you're going to try and fix it."

Finally, it’s always possible a negative review may not be all that bad. It could, for example, be helpful in identifying some operating problem in your dealership that you were not aware of. Perhaps there is something your sales or service team does in the normal course of the day that’s actually irritating the customers. Or, perhaps, it’s something they don’t do.

Either way, monitoring the CGM about you is important enough these days to spend some time on the computer.

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