Should companies care for social media webcare?

On: September 11, 2014
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About Richelle Werners
Hi! I'm Richelle and I'm a student living in Amsterdam. Currently I am an New Media and Digital Culture student at the UvA. I also have a Master of Science degree (Political Communication and Journalism) and two bachelor degrees (Communication Science and Media, information and Communication Management).


Who does not use social networking sites these days? For millions of people around the world social networking sites are part of their daily routine. This phenomenon has major advantages for companies; it offers them the possibility to enhance their advertising. However, in this blog I will stress that companies should consider using social networking sites as a means of ‘webcare’.

Social networking sites
Nowadays social networking sites are present in our every day life; when we wake up we check our Twitter accounts and before we go to sleep we log on to Facebook to see what our friends and family posted during the day. Not to mention we frequently – sometimes even obsessively – check our social networking accounts during the day on our computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Hence, social networking sites have become a huge part of our lives. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) define social networking sites as

“applications that enable users to connect by creating personal information profiles, inviting friends and colleagues to have access to those profiles, and sending e-mails and instant messages between each other. These personal profiles can include any type of information, including photos, video, audio files, and blogs”.

This definition embraces the fact that the emergence of social media has made it possible for one person to communicate with a multitude of other people around the world (Mangold & Faulds, 2009).

Public phenomenon
Despite this, it seems that today we do not only discuss our private lives with our friends and family on social networking sites, but we also communicate with each other about products and the companies that provide them (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). In line with this, Van Noort and Willemsen (2012) state that social networking sites have empowered consumers to voice complaints with reduced costs – both physical and psychological – and to share these with a multitude of other consumers on the Internet. This means that complaints, which were once expressed in a one-to-one communication way with family members, friends, or acquaintances, are now publicly shared on Internet and on social networking sites (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012; Ward & Ostrom, 2006). Thus it can be said that consumer complaining is changing from a private to a public phenomenon (Ward & Ostrom, 2006).

When it comes to companies, most companies recognize that online complaints could damage their company reputations (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012). So although social networking sites not only enable companies to talk to their customers or target possible customers (Mangold & Faulds, 2009), it also enables companies to monitor negative word of mouth (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012). This is very beneficial for companies, because when they start to monitor negative worth of mouth on social networking sites, they also put themselves in a position to take direct, adequate and remedial action by means of webcare (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012).

Because of the enormous impact negative messages can have on companies, these companies try to react to these – mostly negative – messages before others may react upon (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012). Although the concept of ‘webcare’ has not been defined so far (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012), this process of reacting upon negative messages can be defined as ‘webcare’. Webcare even seems to be the future for online damage control. The results of an experimental study by Van Noort and Willemsen (2012) show that consumers evaluate a brand more favourably in a situation where the brand responds to negative messages than in a situation in which the brand remains silent and thus does not respond (Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012). This finding indicates that companies should shift their focus from costumer support via phone systems to webcare via social networking sites. Companies should therefore not turn their heads the other way when it comes to reading customer messages posted on social networking sites or be afraid of interaction with their customers, but they should embrace all the possibilities social networking sites have for online damage control or to monitor negative word of mouth. Thus, companies should care for social media webcare.

Read the entire study by Van Noort and Willemsen here:

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

Mangold, W. G., & Faulds, D. J. (2009). Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix. Business horizons, 52(4), 357-365.

Van Noort, G., & Willemsen, L. M. (2012). Online damage control: the effects of proactive versus reactive webcare interventions in consumer-generated and brand-generated platforms. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(3), 131-140.

Ward, J. C., & Ostrom, A. L. (2006). Complaining to the masses: The role of protest framing in customer‐created complaint web sites. Journal of Consumer Research, 33(2), 220-230.

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