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Online Word Of Mouth is powerful! I don’t think anyone would dispute that fact but just to back it up here are some recent statistics


  • 50% of Americans would pick word of mouth if they had to pick one source of information [Chatter Matters Report]
  • 72% of people get news from friends and family, making word-of-mouth the most popular channel for sharing [Pew Research]
  • Building an online community is most important to brand awareness and word of mouth referrals, with average rankings of 8.87 and 8.52 on a 10 point scale, according to marketers.[Referral Rock]
  • 72% of people say that they most trust content that they get from family or friends.[Statistia]

I could go on and on, but you get the general idea. Online Word Of Mouth (eWOM) is huge and very important to any business.

But, What Happens When It Goes Bad?

In recent years it has happened over and over from one industry to another. Everything is sailing along smoothly for a brand when all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, social media explodes with a wrath over something that the brand said or did. From that moment, forward, the brand’s world has been turned upside down.

You don’t have to look far to find brands that have mishandled a disgruntled customer and consequently have felt the sting from their social media followers, customers, and even the general public. Do you remember these company’s missteps?
  • American Airlines (sometimes too many to count) dragging a passenger off of their plane?
  • How about Adidas who text “Congrats you survived the Boston Marathon.”
  • Or, Chase Bank suggesting that overspending is resulting in your bank account being too low, as opposed to too many bank fees.

What do all of these examples illustrate? That often times a seemingly harmless (well, not in American Airline’s instance) tweet will come off poorly and before you know it you have a Firestorm on your hands.

Are you prepared?

Q: When is the worst time to learn how to put out a grease fire?

A: When the pan on top of the stove is on fire!

Q: When is the worst time to try to figure out how to reply to an irate customer on social media?

A: When they are in the middle of telling the world how bad you are!

According to a report by Ethical Corp, 72% of companies rate their preparedness for potential online firestorms as “below average.”

So, you’re probably now wondering what you have to do to be prepared. In a perfect world, step one would be recognizing what causes these firestorms and deal with them before they gain momentum. Short of that, though, it’s critically important to know how to handle these firestorms once they get going.