Written by Samantha Harris • Published 20th August 2014

Twitter and Facebook are the first places many people take to when angry about something these days. Gone are the days of sending angry letters or emails and people have certainly lost faith in customer services over the phone. With thousands of others able to see your comments instantly and jump on the complaining bandwagon with their own experiences, social media platforms rightly seem the best way to get a message across to a brand quickly and get a quick response.

The channels, which started off as luxuries for brands enabling them to communicate with a whole load of potential customers quickly, easily and for free, are now one of the biggest methods of direct customer conversation and complaints. The individuals behind these channels spend their days responding to tweets and Facebook posts directed at the brand, making sure the consumer leaves happy in the end and no further negativity about the brand is spread.

There are numerous examples that show the true power of these platforms, the most recent being yesterday’s ‘Google Greggs’ campaign. If you currently type Gregg’s into Google, the first thing to appear is numerous news articles regarding a prank played on them via Google. No one knows whether this was a substantial fail on Google’s behalf or an extremely clever viral marketing campaign but contrary to what the ‘prankers’ aimed to achieve when changing the brands logo to read “Greggs – Providing sh*t to scum for over 70 years”, all the coverage is positive and their SEO ratings will have gone through the roof. It may not have been planned, but the way Greggs responded was turned this into great PR for the brand.

So how did this prank backfire and why have Greggs come away as the good guys? Well, instead of trying to speak with Google to get the logo changed asap and trying to brush what had happened under the carpet, their social team very cleverly decided to converse with Google via Twitter only, using a bribe of delicious fresh doughnuts to get them to prioritise this task. They created the hashtag #fixgreggs, with Google quickly responding with, ‘Sorry @GreggstheBakers, we’re on it. Throw in a sausage roll and we’ll get it done ASAP. #fixgreggs’.

Greggs then went on to reply to all concerned customers who had been talking about the logo through Twitter as well, having banter along the way and making light of a bad situation. One tweet they replied with for example was, ‘@joannaroberts_ what? Has something happened? ;-)’.

The problem was soon resolved and all that has been left is positive news coverage in numerous outlets including Sky News, the Telegraph, Evening Standard and Independent.

Another example of social media not only saving the day but greatly enhancing positive awareness of a brand is in the case of O2 whose Twitter account became swamped with negative tweets about poor service by frustrated customers during a large network crash.  Instead of responding to all complaints with the same standard corporate jargon, they too responded to each tweet individually in an honest and light-hearted manner. Customers found this human touch refreshing and emotions quickly changed as a result.

It was the opposite case for HMV however, whose staff took to social media to vent about their frustration of losing their jobs. Instead of the marketing team foreseeing this and planning a good way to disperse the situation, they got worried and started deleting comments as they came in. To the angry staff, this was probably the most annoying thing they could have done and it showed complete lack of control on HMV’s part. This only created more negative press around the company.

These examples show just how powerful a tool social media can be, both in making and breaking the image and trust in a brand. In this day, all companies should have a social media crisis plan, whether deciding how to respond to negative comments in line with the brand’s personality or how they plan to apologise to customers should something go wrong. People naturally like to feel cared about so as long as that comes across through all channels, a bad situation can quickly be resolved.