Robert Pattinson and I don’t have much in common, except for being vampires. He plays the storybook vampire, Edward Cullen, in the Twilight movies.  I am just a regular guy until I became a Social Vampire and set out to socially shame my Internet provider on Twitter and Facebook.

What is a Social Vampire? And why should customer service managers care?
Social Vampires come from the ranks of angry, isolated customers, who use social media to seek retribution. They threaten your company’s bottom line by sinking their teeth into your brand reputation and savaging the perception of your customer service. They bleed your company’s expensive marketing plans with carefully placed, but very cheaply delivered, bite marks. The deepest attacks will be felt by your Board of Directors and giggled over by your competitors.

Examples are everywhere. The media loves to promote them. Here are three of my favorites from YouTube:

  • FedEx – a careless driver throws a package
  • United – the airline breaks Dave Carroll’s guitar
  • Comcast – a technician falls asleep on a customer’s couch

My transformation into a Social Vampire began slowly.  My Internet bills incorrectly contained a TV tax on nonexistent TV service. I spoke with agents who could not explain the mistake or remove the fee, and they frequently dropped my calls.  Eventually, I gave up. But, after one massive credit card bill, I sprouted virtual fangs and flew like a bat to Twitter and Facebook to stalk my Internet provider and seek justice. It felt good.

Defending Yourself with Your Own Social Vampire Survival Guide
Social Vampires and Storybook Vampires differ in one key aspect; you can reverse the Social Vampire transformation, but you need a coherent strategy and this requires a Social Vampire Survival Guide.

The purpose of the guide is to anticipate the inevitable attacks with a strategic defense, which in the minimum should contain these four directives:

  1. Treat the social channel like a customer service channel.
    Although marketing departments typically launch social initiatives, the social channels soon become a forum where customers air their issues and expect answers. Check out @comcastcares on Twitter. Ignore your customers’ requests and damage the social channel and your reputation. Treat the channel with customer service know-how, and you start to address the angst that fuels Social Vampires.
  2. Route the Social Vampires based on Sentiment, Actionability and Influence.
    Intelligently prioritizing the attacks above general chatter expedites reaction time to damaging posts and improves resource efficiency.  Obviously, Sentiment is important, but adding Actionability (is an action required?) is even better. Also, reacting to Influence is key.  A complaint by Robert Pattinson to his 540,000 Twitter followers can create a swath of destruction in seconds to a costly marketing campaign. Don’t let damaging posts from Big Influencers linger.
  3. Understand and fight back in real-time.
    Successful attacks by Social Vampires move at viral speeds. So do successful responses.  United’s sluggish response to Dave Carroll led to months of PR headaches and diminished brand value. FedEx countered its problem with lightening speed and contained the damage. Quickly understanding and reacting are critical. Waiting costs dollars.
  4. Provide cross-channel problem resolution.
    Managers must decide which posts should be handled in the social channel and which should be moved out and resolved by phone or email. If social responses are uncoordinated with traditional channels, you lose the ability to effectively take conflict out of the public view. You also increase the chance of angering the Social Vampires even further with errors in coordination; e.g. promising an email that never comes.

Reclaiming Social-Vampires As Happy Customers
Robert Pattinson’s and my days as vampires are over.  He finished his last Twilight movie in November. My transformation back into a happy customer occurred within hours of my Twitter and Facebook posts.  My Internet provider quickly responded to my Tweet with an email link, which led to a phone conversation at my convenience. The agent was knowledgeable about my issues and fixed my problem. Wow!  My fangs and evil customer demeanor disappeared, and I am now a brand advocate.

If you would like more information about Social Vampires, click here to read about what conditions create Social Vampires. If you care about the ROI of Social Customer Service, I recommend reading a new blog and white paper by Richad McCrossan.