Purpose – Of Fortune 100 companies 79 percent use some form of social media to communicate with customers and other stakeholders. However, these media pose the risk of providing a forum for comments critical of corporate leadership, services, or products. Most marketing specialists recommend that negative comments should be treated as opportunities to resolve potential problems. This paper seeks to assess whether large companies adopt the recommended approach when reacting to negative comments. Design/methodology/approach – The study identifies official Facebook pages sponsored by the top ten companies (as defined by the Forbes 2000 for 2010) in four industry groups – banking, retailing, software and services, and household and personal products. The number of negative comments posted to these pages is calculated and corporate reactions to the comments analyzed. Findings – The study concludes that large corporations do not generally approach negative comments as public relations opportunities, but prefer to censor, or ignore, critical feedback. Practical implications – Results of the investigation indicate that negative comments are most likely to be posted in response to explicit marketing messages initiated by sponsoring corporations. Companies that combine marketing messages and “fun” postings attract significantly fewer negative comments. Originality/value – This study is the first quantitative examination of the manner by which major corporations respond – or fail to respond – to negative feedback generated by Facebook “fans”.
Corporate Communications: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 3, 2012
Keywords: Communication; Communication technologies; Public relations; Customer satisfaction; Stakeholder analysis; Social networks; Corporate image
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