In days past, stores had to worry about unhappy customers badmouthing their business to their friends and neighbors.
Now, with the Internet and social media sites such as Facebook, an upset customer’s outrage can go viral, creating a potential public relations nightmare for the business.
“The proliferation of social media channels have made it possible for everyone to have a voice, whether that it is good or bad,” said Jeanne Achille, owner of the Devon Group, a public relations firm in Middletown. “We now operate in the Internet age. At the press of a button, anybody can say anything about everyone.”
For instance, people upset over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s policies that have angered public employee unions have turned to Facebook to boycott companies and contributors that support him. Big brands, such as Burger King, Bank of America and BP, have had seen upset customers post calls for boycotts on Facebook.
Take what happened recently with Diane & Co., a Freehold Township dress shop and subject of the reality TV series “Jersey Couture.”
Jackson teenager Jacqueline Genovese tried to return her prom dress after her boyfriend, 17-year-old James Volpe, died in a car accident May 13. She was refused by the store, citing its policy.
She had planned to go to the prom with Volpe wearing the dress, which cost $1,200. But she wanted to return it and donate money to her deceased boyfriend’s family.
News reports covered the thunderstorm. The store refunded the price to the teen’s father, who had purchased the dress, and issued a store credit for another dress. Still, a friend of the girl’s family created a page on Facebook called “Boycott Diane & Co. Freehold NJ.” As of Thursday, 14,271 Facebook users “liked” the page.
There is an “immense and unrealized impact of social media,” said Jonathan Jaffe, managing principal of Jaffe Communications Inc., a public relations firm with offices in Westfield and Newark.
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