Consumers Take Their Fights to the Web

"That's actually an opportunity for a company, too. If a video with a good argument starts to get really popular, a company can step in and say, 'You know what, we've taken this seriously … and we're going to step in and we're going to fix it, and look how great we are.' So it doesn't necessarily have to be, 'Oh, look at the mean consumer, like, beating up on the company.' "

Do Companies Get It?

"No, most companies screw it up," said Larry Weber, author of "Marketing to the Social Web" and an Internet consultant to Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Visa and General Motors.

Weber preaches an Internet involvement gospel: Companies have to give up trying to control everything that is said about them and surrender to the almighty Web.

"The first thing you've got to do is you have to understand who's talking about your company and your products and your competitors online. Get out and share and be a part of those conversations. Be transparent. … Don't try to hide."

If only Delta had that advice, before this video hit the Web earlier this summer. Robert McKee was one of several passengers on Delta flight 6499 that was stuck on the tarmac at JFK airport for seven hours. Delta did not feed the passengers throughout the entire ordeal and McKee kept his camera rolling, posting a minidocumentary online.


Eventually Delta provided the passengers with frequent flier miles and $200 rebates, but it was too little, too late, according to Weber.

"Delta should've come right out and said, 'We apologize. Here's free roundtrip tickets forever. We hope this never happens again.' They should've put a video out of the CEO apologizing right away."

That is exactly what toy magnate Mattel did earlier this month when it recalled more than 9 million toys made in China due to excessive lead paint and magnets. Instead of hiding from the negative press, CEO Bob Eckert posted a video statement on Mattel's Web site that was picked up by various Mommy blogs across the Web.

Be Seen, Be Heard

The Internet has enabled consumers to take over the driver's seat; compelling online videos help consumers get leverage over companies in ways letters and phone calls never could. That being said, commanding the attention of a Fortune 500 company is no small feat.

Consumer video sites have increased in popularity tenfold — not just any video will get noticed. While it may seem that anything goes on the Web, Marco advises that people on the Internet can be very critical, and ambitious consumers should take several things into consideration before pressing "record."

"I'd say the first thing you want to do is take a deep breath, and decide whether you really want to put yourself on the Internet," she said. "And if you decide that you do, then you're going to want to make sure that you have a really valid complaint — you're going to want to gather all your evidence together, as if the IRS were coming over."

Once you've exhausted the traditional methods of contacting companies and determined uploading is your only option, Marco says you must aim to get sympathy and support, and adding a little entertainment factor certainly doesn't hurt either.

"You've got to get everything together, get your video camera, and then just speak from the heart. Just say, you know, this is how I feel, this is what I've done, I've reached an impasse, and I'm appealing to everyone else. Help me out!"

So, with that advice, I set off to make my own video. I have some issues with my cell phone. In fact, it's sort of a universal problem: It's impossible to see the screen in the sunlight. It drives me crazy.

No, I wasn't crazy enough to smash my cell phone in the video. But others like Michael have done just that with their high-priced electronics! So, companies, be on your toes. As Jessie, the woman who recorded in the car dealership, warned, " Don't mess with me because I will record you!"

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