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Naughty Santa Gets Ousted By Not-So-Nice Mothers On Facebook
By: Kevin Weaver
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The way in which companies handle criticism and negative feedback has always been important to their success and overall image to the public. It's easy to handle an individual's frustrations over the phone or in the back of a department store in a manager's office. This way companies enjoy being able to resolve issues quietly, privately, and most importantly, away from the public eye. But what about when someone voices their concerns or distaste for something through a Facebook post on your company wall or as a Tweet for all the world to see?

There is no doubt social media has changed the business-to-consumer relationship forever. Facebook and Twitter allow companies to interact with their customers in a way they were never able to before. This close interaction gives businesses invaluable insight to the way their audiences think and behave. But it also comes at the higher cost of heightened accountability and increased transparency. If a customer has a bad experience at your place of business, you can be sure that it will eventually end up on the Internet.

No one is safe anymore. Not even Santa Claus could escape the reach of social media's arm of justice. Angry mothers in Portland, Maine took to a mall's Facebook page after negative experiences with the Santa that was employed there. According to one mother, the Santa in question refused to take a picture with her child unless she purchased a $20 photo package; a package that the mall stated was optional. Soon after this woman voiced her displeasure, more mothers flocked to the Facebook page with similar stories. Other accusations were that Santa did not allow children to sit on his lap, he called the children greedy, and he broke their hearts. Maybe Santa was having a bad day or maybe it was a big misunderstanding. Either way it didn't matter; he was let go by the mall due to increased pressure from mall-goers.

Ten years ago this situation would have been chalked up as a grumpy old man in a red jumpsuit and a pack of bratty kids, but this is 2012. Thanks to social media, consumers now have more power than ever. With increased anonymity and an alternative to face-to-face contact, people are much more willing to share their opinions online. Had the mothers addressed the issue as it was happening in the store, I'm sure it would have been settled and I wouldn't be writing this article.

Businesses need to be vigilant and proactive when monitoring their social media accounts. Social media managers need to be the first to comment on customer complaints. Acknowledge the problem instead of ignoring it. Invite the disgruntled individual to discuss the issue via email or telephone. Companies who handle disputes in this way are able to turn negative situations into positive ones, thus improving their image. 

I'm sure that more incidents like this will arise this holiday season. Hopefully they don't get as much media attention as this and result in someone losing their job. One thing's for sure; Santas everywhere will be on their best behavior from here on out.

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About the Author
Kevin Weaver is a marketing professional in Wichita, KS with two years of experience. Past and present work includes email marketing compaigns, client e-store development, social media, and destination marketing.
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