Do you whinge about your bank, your phone service, your internet provider, your mobile handset, your computer operating system or anything else that relates to a big brand? Chances are you probably do.  Of course I never whinge about anything. ANYTHING. Oh wait, that’s right… I whinge about everything.  Probably because I hate everything and everyone, including you.

But that’s beside the point.  So we’ve established that unless you are some sort of alien life form, you probably whinge about stuff – and chances are in this day and age you turn to the internet in order to proliferate your useless views to as many people as digitally possible.  Which is lots of people! Yay for the power of the internet!

ANYWAY, the chances are that these companies that are the subject of your online derision know you.  Yep, your name and what you’ve said is probably sitting in a report that has been read by dozens of people in that company.  Maybe your Twitter ID has come up for conversation at a meeting that involved a bunch of self-important idiots like the CEO, the Director of Brand Strategy, the Minister for the State of Customer Relations and many other twats. I probably shouldn’t have said that.  Oh well.

So probably they have heard what you’ve said, but will it spawn change? It very well might. Social media monitoring is the new market research. It’s cheaper, more reliable and way more fun to manage. And they don’t even have to provide coffee and biscuits in order to rape your social media intellectual property for free market insights.

Every day there is someone watching every last comment made about the company they are working for and compiling a bunch of trends and insights. Waiting times are too long, customer service is lacking, the current advertising campaign is offensive, nobody likes them, blah blah blah. Whatever people are saying, these guys are tracking.  And for some stupid reason, these 140 character nuggets of insight are considered to be WAY more informative than any 30 minute phone conversation with a customer.  It may be because it’s much less boring reading 140 characters than listening to a 30-minute rant. Or maybe because that tweet is (hear all execs take sharp breath here) PUBLIC… so any goober can see what that person has said about you.  Which means, in exec-land, that at least 2.42 million have already seen it, even if you only have 3 people following you.

Anyway you say it and they probably know you said it.  Sometimes they may even reply to you, but don’t assume they haven’t heard just because they haven’t replied.

If the thought of a bunch of corporate execs analysing your social media rants creeps you out just a little, there are a few things you can do to stop them. Well, there’s mainly just the one actually… Don’t say anything in the first place. If you can’t stop yourself from sharing your every opinion about everything from your Internet connection to your latest pair of shoes, there may be a few measures that could help…

1.       Set your facebook privacy settings to private. So far this has been successful in preventing external parties from spying on your every thought, even if it concerns them. Not so effective for twitter, where even if your tweets are “protected” (your profile is private and requires tweeps to request to see your tweets) – the monitoring tool that I currently use picks these protected tweets up also. Nice one Biz Stone!

2.        Don’t use the proper name of whatever brand you are bitching about.   The only way they can find your rants about their brand is by searching particular terms. If you know a way of referencing them that they probably wouldn’t track but that your digital tribe would still understand, use it. Just be aware if it’s obvious (eg. maccas for mcdonalds) they will probably be tracking it as well. If they have any brain cells. But then again there’s every chance they don’t, particularly if an agency is managing their monitoring efforts.

3.        Don’t use your real name. They will still know what you have said, but they can’t attribute it to you. Some funky businesses are staying ahead of the curve by storing the info in CRM systems against your name, along with all the other details they have about you. Eventually they will probably try to sell this intelligence to terrorists or try to take over the world or maybe steal your identity to buy online porn.

4.       If all else fails, just don’t say anything in the first place!

The truth is if you say anything online –forums, blogs, facebook, twitter, myspace (not that it even really counts)… even YouTube… well these corporate execs probably know about you.  If fame is something you aspire to, I would suggest you post every damn day about them, because then in all likelihood you will branded a ‘top influencer’ and probably their agency will contact you to get you involved in the next campaign launch.  Of course you will then be a complete sell-out, but whatever.

Another thing to note is that complaining about brands can kinda be fun sometimes because if they are cool they may even offer you free stuff to prove they care about you, when all they are really trying to do is get good PR, which will result in more customers, which means more money. Those conniving bastards! But you still get free stuff, which is a win in any book.

Plus, if you’re anything like me, you may take pleasure in them knowing that you hate them with the fire of ten thousand suns. Their brand probably sucks and they deserve to know that’s what we think.

The end.

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