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I’ve just encountered the “Larklife” wrist band, it’s kind of like the Nike Fuelband…only good! Or so it seems.

The problem with all of these fitness aids, Fitbit, Fuelband, Larklife and even the brilliant (but faulty) Jawbone Up is that there’s a huge gulf between the hype and the reality. This is a crucial business mistake that so many organisations make, particularly in this socially enabled world.

When we talk about our businesses or our products most people won’t listen and even if they do, they probably won’t believe us…which is fine. If however they do, that’s where our problems begin. When we say things like “the finest accountancy practice in the county” or “exceptional customer service” or “all of our customers are delighted with us”…we’re asking for trouble.

Saying the words is really easy, delivering the reality is really hard.

In the world of social media we are facing a big big risk because there’s a platform to tell everyone how unhappy they are with us.

Just today my website went down…for 2 1/2 hours. So I emailed my hosting company…then I emailed them again…then I wrote some stuff on their Facebook page…and then they answered, because all of their ‘fans’ could see my comments. Whether our customers post on our networks (our Facebook walls or our blogs) or their own (Twitter, LinkedIn, G+) isn’t the issue, the fact that they have a potentially global platform to tell people about the mistakes we’re making IS.

So, how can we manage this? Well, the truth is that we can’t. Simply not being on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn doesn’t stop people from talking about us, it only stops us from hearing it. So, to mitigate the risk there are a few simple things we should be doing:

  • be active on all the networks you can to generate some visibility and, more importantly goodwill, so when something goes wrong there’s a chance people will give you the benefit of the doubt
  • listen to your customers both online and offline and try to take heed of what they say, they’re comments are a fantastic barometer for general feeling towards your organisation
  • moderate your use of hyperbole in your marking materials – “probably the best lager in the world” probably isn’t!
  • have in place a crisis policy so that if something terrible happens you will have already put in place a process for getting through it

Remember, generally customers are impressed if you tell them it’ll take a week and you deliver it in 5 days, less so if you tell them three days and deliver in 5!

It’s all about managing expectations.