Why Brand Managers Should Focus on Sincerity in Social Media

We all have a crazy aunt who describes the romance novel she is reading as “transcendent” or a brother-in-law who rages that his medium-well porterhouse steak is a “frigging tragedy perpetrated by morons!”

You have to love the public, because the public is you, your family and your friends. It’s us, and we know how unfair we can be. So the public understands why businesses that rely on online customer reviews are terrorized by social media. Social media is the bullhorn our nutty aunts and brother-in-laws have been waiting for all of their lives, and managers in every industry from car rentals to Italian restaurants are getting an earful.

Many online rants and rave reviews are written by people looking for a way to express emotions or to give them (sadly) a feeling of significance. Regardless, brand managers must take these reviews seriously because prospective customers consider reviews an important factor when determining how to spend their money. In fact, this article in The New York Times states, “Olery, a company that offers brand reputation management for hotels, said in a report that about 78 percent of travelers used online reviews to help decide which hotel to book.”

If you’re a hotel brand manager, that statistic is as welcoming as the sound of someone breaking into your house. It’s scary. Responding to negative reviewers as well as thanking positive reviewers is an excellent idea in theory, but most companies don’t have the time or resources for this level of social media vigilance. The best brand managers can do is stay calm and think as a prospective customer would think.

The public knows that many reviews are written by the more emotional and less informed people in our lives. We know to filter out the irrational tirades or oddly glowing celebrations of an individual’s personal experience. Like the public, brand managers should look for legitimacy and sincerity—those reviews that contain valuable information regarding a customer’s experience. There is gold in honest reviews, especially the negative ones. Companies spend billions in search of constructive criticism. And the public is offering it for free.

To ignore such information would be crazy.