The site describes itself as “the Qantas News website by former and present Qantas customers”, and has a litany of bad news stories collated in order to damage the reputation of Qantas. They even offer $500 per best story per month, here. The site is registered through MelbourneIT to a “Berg Berg” of North Carolina, whose email address is email@example.com (and whose blog is here).
For those who may think this is the sign of things to come, an inevitable avalanche of <companyname>sucks.com websites, you’re partly right and partly wrong.
You’re right if you think there is more to come. Plenty more. For as long as there have been companies, there have been people complaining about those companies. The internet has allowed people to express their complaints in ever more creative and popular ways. It’s incredibly easy to bag a company online. And people will get better and better at complaining online.
However you’re wrong if you think it’s the first example. The internet is close to forty years old, and as long as there’s been the net, there have been complaints online. If we look at a perfect Australian example, the massively popular Whirlpool forum started around ten years ago as a response to the disastrous early performance of the BigPond internet service – and allowed people to discuss performance problems not only with BigPond but also for other ISPs. It is now one of the biggest online forums in Australia, with over 282,444 active members, discussing topics including:
- IT Industry
- Home Theatre
- In the News: including Politics, Current Affairs, Issues and Society
…and Telstra still hasn’t worked out how to engage with the Whirlpool community, unlike iiNet and other ISPs who have done so very successfully.
As I’ve been saying for many years, it’s not a matter of when your organisation, products, brands or issues will be discussed, the point is how big the current discussion is; how many people are discussing it, where they are discussing it, and what information do they have at their disposal, ultimately what damage is it doing to your brand in the marketplace. It’s already happening – across social media of all types, by Australians of all ages, incomes and locations. Remember, over 41% of ALL Australians post comments about products, brands or services online, and a whopping 86% of people read these comments (stats here). And for those of you you think you’ve got it covered because you search Aussie blogs, you’re waaaaaaaay off track. Blogs aren’t very popular in Australia (nowhere near as popular as forums and social networking sites), and while agencies, communicators, marketers and organisations believe their American counterparts in thinking that blogs are the end all and be all of online conversation, they will be lost.
If you’re not aware of the conversations around your brand across all social media, do something about it – now!