Become a fan: Telstra works hard to be liked

TELSTRA has increased its investment in social media, but has been unable to stem the tidal wave of negative comments about its brand.

Telstra has more than 50,000 Facebook fans, but the Facebook page ”I Hate Telstra” had more than 12,528 fans last night, and the page ”Hi. I’m Telstra. Omnomnom Your Credit” had 20,481 fans. There are several other pages critical of the telco with comments from enraged consumers.

Telstra’s head of online communications and social media, Kristen Boschma, said she would rather people vented online than be silent and unengaged with the brand.

She said the company had increased its commitment to social media and constantly monitored online conversations.

”What we’ve found is that those people who are fans of the Telstra brand online are actually highly engaged with our brand. Often people will ‘like’ a hate page but then not go back to it for a year or two.

”It is unrealistic for any brand to think that consumers will always be a fan of your brand. Some people are satisfied and others are dissatisfied. But you’ve got to listen to them all.”

Telstra is tackling the naysayers head-on by recently establishing Telstra Digital – a dedicated team of 10 staff to monitor and respond to problems posted on social media.

”Our ultimate aim is to build up a community online so that people feel comfortable and can learn from each other,” Ms Boschma said.

A digital expert, Lee Hawksley, said Australian companies had stood on the sidelines of social media for too long, which had frustrated consumers.

The senior director of ExactTarget said most people vented anger online because they wanted to know the brand was listening. ”And if you’re not there listening and responding, consumers can feel ignored.”

Tristan Fawley, the group general manager of the digital agency the Dubs, recommends that Telstra builds pockets of unpaid brand advocates to lead conversations online.

”Telstra needs to find advocates and let them push their message against the flow of negative sentiment. Fans of the brand may well appreciate having a platform upon which to show their admiration,” Mr Fawley said.

However, many companies made the mistake of responding to online chatter before establishing a policy and strategy, said Ian Farmer, the strategy director of Webling Interactive.

”Crisis management is a tricky issue in the social media space. Things can go horribly wrong in just 140 characters.”

Mr Farmer suggested brands nominate an individual to make online posts rather than using a company logo because ”people find it a lot harder to hate a real person”.

Brands needed to be a lot more reactive and responsive in social media than they had been, Mr Farmer said.

“Brands need to find ways to add value to the online conversation.”