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March 3, 2016

The Recipe for Making Anything, and then Responding When It Doesn’t Work.

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Pinterest has grown in influence and size due to a number of variables in consumer behavior. Some factors include:

• a demographic that leans heavily towards the female contingent.
• the boom in “time spent online” for a woman’s social media profile. (Women are four times more likely to use the site and 70% of users are women).
• a consistent revision (and accompanying stout risk versus reward) approach to application development that is hyper-responsive to the market in terms of seeking consumer voice and making real, actionable changes to the site interface.
• and notably, a penchant for making instructions, directions and recipes for basically anything more digestible with their visual and layout presentation.

Strangely, the concept of “recipe proliferation” is the most intriguing, dynamic aspect of Pinterest’s product. Pinterest recipes have spurred the somewhat familiar—and highly desirable—critical response needed for any impactful social movement with humorous memes and hashtags that decry the abject failure in project results (#Pinterestfail and #nailedit) from users that follow the earnest, yet sometimes peculiar, Pinterest directions. More importantly though, Pinterest has succeeded in creating a subcategory of users who focus equally on failure as much as revel in the success of the same recipes. It’s a subcategory that crosses gender lines with no prejudice. Want to make lemon bars in a colander? How about making ghosts for Halloween out of old socks and straws? Or, have you ever had the need to create a miniature ferris wheel out of Nike shoe boxes and spaghetti? Pinterest is your first stop.

It’s strange, intriguing and dynamic for reasons that a marketer should be aware of. The multilayered, deliberate nature of Pinterest’s recipe, instruction and direction propagation has allowed it to provide a straight-faced, honest resource for users via a collaborative, crowd-sourced funnel of content from other users and put forth a secondary market for users who have a more wink, wink, nudge, nudge response to Pinterest efforts. Both concepts work in concert to expand the audience and influence for the social media site. Neither ultimately hurts the other. It’s as if Pinterest has its cake and eats it too.
By taking both positive and seemingly negative feedback and using it to germinate naturally, authentically, instead of forcing it, Pinterest allows both thriving user cultures to produce a content stream that allows for exposure, comfort and easy affinity.

– – –

Online backlash from vocal consumer displeasure can be a traumatic experience for big brands, and catastrophic for fledgling brands, with real financial implications. Bolstered by the social media constructs and avenues that Pinterest uses so well, if you consider the number of websites that seem dedicated to critical or negative consumer response, you’d notice that it’s an “industry” that naturally falls out of our desire for more insight into our purchase intent.

The car industry has TrueValue.com, Edmunds.com, Carfax.com, Intellichoice.com and any number of other apps and sites promising to give consumers a relevant view on the products they want to buy. In the name of protecting the consumer, the general buying industry has RipOffReport.com and ConsumerReports.com, as well as the local Better Business Bureau outlet and other paid sites like Angie’s List. In the name of giving us more information for intelligent purchasing, much of the results have instead created a petrie dish of potential backlash that often cascades upon a business error, or perceived lack of appropriate customer satisfaction, like sharks in chummed waters.

In writing, there is an adage that says, in effect, if you give someone a choice to edit, they will. The accessibility of social media outlets and sites directly designed for consumer “editing,” gives us a consumer base that is not only “at the ready” with exercising their right to edit and review, but also seeks to use that right as a replacement or even recompense for appropriate business response.

How does a company or marketer for an organization determine the best course of action against an exceedingly familiar route of expressed dissatisfaction from consumers? Certainly, the first step (and the most remedial) is to ensure the marketability of the business or product is in line with high-caliber production or goods. Under promise, over deliver is a good rule of thumb. The next step; however, is tricky and is where many businesses fail—but is something exhibited in our earlier example by Pinterest.

A business should not only embrace customer response, but should be willing to react with great fervor to consumer feedback. It isn’t easy and requires a company build a known system and plan an executable mechanism to respond. It’s also not impossible when the business is deliberate. Instead of cowering in fear, a business should embrace the opportunity to engage the positive possibilities. It doesn’t mean a company should run down a never-ending trail of contrarian or “you’ll get yours” that a disgruntled customer may have on their agenda. (We’ve long since lost the consumer is always right frame of mind.) However, embracing the social swirl that can happen should be taken advantage of.

Understand your options as a business before you get hit with anything negative or positive. By having a plan for both outcomes, you’ll be better prepared to have a reasonable experience. Take inventory of the routes people get to you.

1. Do you have a contact form that is manned?
2. Do you have a “live chat” feature available?
3. Do you have an autoresponder to immediately reply to consumers?
4. How readily accessible are you?

Beyond that, you must have mechanisms for escalation and approaches that are known in advance so comments and questions, reviews and customer dissatisfaction are handled calmly and rapidly, if appropriate. Instead of circling the wagons, determine what actually requires a response, and what doesn’t when criteria are known, deliberate and planned. While you may not be able to “nail it,” you can be better prepared to handle things that do go wrong with more success.

Martin Perez
CEO & President

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