One of the reasons you might be hesitant to embrace social media is because you don’t want to risk losing control of your brand’s messaging, and nothing can better exemplify this fear like customer’s response to Honda’s new crossover.
Honda, which has a Facebook fan page for each of its vehicles, posted a new Facebook page for the new Accord Crosstour, a vehicle coming this fall. What followed was a flurry of comments on Facebook ridiculing the new vehicle’s design. Many of these comments are pretty scathing:
This is just a small sample of the negative comments about the crossover. Now, what Honda chooses to do at this point could have a significant impact on its brand. Although this is a scary situation for any business, smart businesses who actively manage their reputation will see this situation as a great opportunity to catapult their brand image in ways that they couldn’t do otherwise. Businesses who don’t actively manage their reputation will probably follow their knee-jerk reaction and cause significant damage to their brand.
So in this case, what are some of Honda’s options?
Option 1: Delete the comments and remove the Facebook page
This is the knee jerk reaction, and one that many businesses might decide is the best decision. If you’re being attacked via your own social media channels, the easiest decision is to simply remove everything, or delete negative comments to try and fight your customer’s reactions. As you might have guessed, this is the worst decision you could for multiple reasons:
- This shows customers that you don’t care about their input.
- This shows customers that you aren’t a transparent company that can be trusted. After all, if you delete negative comments, how do they know you’re being honest with your marketing?
- Your customers will simply take their reactions to other social media channels that you have absolutely no control over.
- Your customers, or competitors, will have ammunition to attack you with.
Obviously, this decision can have a profound negative impact on your brand. Online reputation management does not mean artificially making your company look good online, and customers can smell this a mile away.
Option 2: Take it like a market leader, and then let them know you’re listening
This is the exact opposite thing you’ll probably want to do, but is a great decision that, paradoxically, will separate your brand from your competitor’s in a very positive way. Why do you think that Honda’s customers are taking the time to comment negatively about Honda’s product? Because they care! After all, in order to comment, they have to be a “fan” of Honda’s Facebook page in the first place! A great decision in this case is to leave the comments and then include some of your own comments regularly responding, in a non-defensive way, to your customers. Choosing to react in this way has multiple positive outcomes:
- Your customers know you’re listening to them, and know that you care about them
- Your customers see that you aren’t deleting negative comments, and thus come to trust you, and your marketing message more. After all, you are showing that you are a transparent company.
- Customers won’t take the message elsewhere, because there’s no need to. This way, you can monitor the conversation and easily respond.
- You will be acting as a market leader by taking criticism head on. After all, you don’t need to hide from negative feedback because you’re a leader!
This is the option that Honda has chosen, and it’s working for them very well. They have responded to these comments directly on their fan page. Here are a few of their responses:
“We think the Euro wagon is a cool vehicle, too, and we appreciate the feedback… but a version of that wasn’t our intention here.”
“There are more photos on the way. Maybe it’s like a bad yearbook photo or something, and we think the new photos will clear things up.”
“Many of you don’t like the styling: It may not be for everyone. Our research suggests that the styling does test well among people shopping for a crossover.”
Which company would you rather buy from? The one that chooses option 1 or the the one that chooses option 2?
Companies that are very successful with social media understand that many of the “negative” things that can happen are actually giant opportunities for brand improvement that are otherwise not available in other channels. Obviously, Honda can’t take back the vehicle they’ve just built, and it’s probably going to be released this fall no matter what. But the way they are responding to this barrage of comments is outstanding.
Bonus: In my opinion, if they use this as a reason to start incorporating social media in the design of new vehicles or future crossovers, they will begin winning over customers from Toyota.