Last year, I wrote a post on my personal blog that became quite controversial here. I took apart our University system for its archaic form of education that has failed to take into consideration the changing times. My bone of contention was that our University curriculum as currently constituted labeled as best only those who best managed to cram the notes best and not necessarily competency in the actual jobs or creative thinking with regard to various tasks or even out of the box thinking. I contrasted this with the DALC Institution where students there were given the opportunity to work and their reports from their working experience served as the exam. That was where the controversy began.
My assessment of DALC was solely (and faultily so) based on the TV adverts of DALC and the incessant feature of its Head on TV on any Education matter and his always being asked the way forward for Education in Kenya. This got me some whiplash from my readers.
In the comment section, I was accused of misleading people because the DALC Institution was nothing but a big hoax. Evidence upon evidence claiming to prove that the institution was a hoax deceiving the public was mounted by different people and I was shocked when I read it. More surreal was the fact one link provided in the comment section led me to this EDUCON blog solely dedicated to discrediting the DALC Institution. The writer was doing a pretty good job as he had transcripts of confidential letters, inside information about who was employed, who left, for what reasons and the employee turnover rate at the institution. Interestingly, he convinced me with his attack on DALC because of the evidence he posed and which was backed by a multitude of other comments. The other reason I was convinced was because DALC had not responded to these accusations in an effort to clear their name.
And that brings me to the central point of this post? Do Kenyan companies listen online to see whether people are talking about them and in what manner?
This is important because whether Kenyan companies have woken up to the new reality that is brought about by social media is already a frontier that should be manned. But questions that need to be answered first have not. Do Kenyans companies worry about their reputations online? Do they even have antennas to listen where their names are being mentioned online? Do they have a social media policy that guides their response to these mentions online whether positive or negative? The reality of this age where blogs are prevalent and anybody can publish on their experiences with you as a company necessitates that you take proactive course of action in looking out for mentions of your company online. You might and probably will be surprised at what you will find.
For instance, If DALC was actively listening online using listening tools like Social Mention or even Google Alerts; it would have seen the discussion taking part in my blog and responded accordingly in an effort to clear their name. Better yet, they would have found this EDUCON Blog which is solely dedicated at taking them down as an institution. To counter the attack, they would have produced counter evidence, if there was any, and mitigated the damage done by this blog. But they are not listening and I doubt that they even know that such an attack on their institution exists.
The threat to businesses is the impact of such attacks to their companies online. I was convinced by the accusations leveled against DALC and ever since I wrote that post, I have already advised many of my friends and friends of friends against considering DALC as their institution of choice. I direct them to read my blog and especially the comments section and thereafter make their decision. And just by doing that, DALC has lost many potential clients because of social media.
And it does not stop with DALC. The complaints about companies online are rampant and social media is the course of it all. You treat a client rudely and you will lose not only that client but their circle of influence too. For instance, @Wanjiku, one of the foremost bloggers in the country felt harassed at 680 Hotel and her reaction was to blog about it. Considering she has been nominated for the 10th Annual Weblog Awards, her circle of influence is not just local but continental. Her complaints against 680 Hotel have definitely caught the attention of quite a number of people (in a bad way) and that might very well mean lost potential clients for the hotel. While problems do happen, response is always key. Hotel 680, if it was listening online, would have written to Wanjiku and apologized and even offer to accommodate her gratis the next time she was in town. @Davefleet has an exceptional case on how best hotels should respond to win their customers’ loyalty.
Your company may also be suffering because of such attacks online yet you remain clueless. Start with the basics; start a Google Alert for your company name, use Social Mention to see where in Social Media your company is being talked about, Google your Company name once in a while to see what comes up, and determine how to best respond to the mentions online. This is just to keep tabs on who is saying what about you in the social space.
After that, you can start planning seriously about the other steps of social media engagement.