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Guest Column: The big social media lesson for Flipkart

20-October-2014
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Guest Column: The big social media lesson for Flipkart

‘So much depends on reputation— guard it with your life’, said a wise man once. This is even more relevant in today’s social media times of ‘instant karma’. A small crack in reputation and public opinion pulls you down. It is the power of a click that can build or break brand reputation. Social media is not about technology; it is about public – real people, their connections, their emotions, and their expressions of happiness and angst, all instantaneous. 

In imitation of the Black Friday sale in the USA, Flipkart’s Big Billion Day sale not only invited disgruntled shoppers’ ire but also invited government scrutiny, allegations of predatory pricing and  technical glitches. Buyers took to social media to vent their frustration and anger after they were unable to make the best of Big Billion Day sale. It was the power of a click that flipped Flipkart’s Big Billion Day event into billion backlashes on social media. Flipkart spoof hashtags like #Failkart, #Flopkart, #Flippedkart were trending across Twitter and Facebook all day.

Flipkart’s mega online flash sale was a success or not is not the big billion question. We need to ask the bigger question – What should Flipkart do next?

Flipkart’s biggest lesson is that social media is all about instant justice. Social media has arrived with a big bang in India. Flipkart saw the power of how a groundswell of angry and disgruntled buyers can damage reputation on social media. 

Flipkart’s apology to its database of users came as a soothing balm to angry consumers. But it does not end there. Consumers want to know how Flipkart is fixing its errors, how they plan to make up for letting many consumers down and whether Flipkart is in control of the situation. There is a greater call for transparency from brands as consumers are armed with social media tools to spread the message, gather support from their communities, friends and families to boycott products and brands. Therefore, brands need to communicate more authentically and be more accountable. Consumers are no longer forgiving, definitely not on social media.

Thanks to e-commerce and social media, there is a fundamental shift in consumer purchasing behaviour. Social media’s explosion of social content like recommendations has a real impact in people's day-to-day lives, including what we buy and how much we are willing to pay. Hence, brands need a more powerful, accountable, transparent and genuine communication strategy to connect with their consumers online.

Flipkart’s apology was a genuine personal attempt to reach out to their customers and reflected a sense of introspection. However, no one cares if you’re sorry, if you do not demonstrate your credibility by communicating how you will salvage the situation. Flipkart needs to communicate decisive action that they will take to address the big let-down. Flipkart needs to rethink their social media strategy and strongly communicate their commitment to their consumers. Through social media, Flipkart should precisely explain their action plan to ensure the fix is effective and enduring.

Social media is an epic. It's growing rapidly. You can love it or hate it but simply cannot afford to ignore it.

The author  is the Founder CEO of Footprint Global Communications 
 

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