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How "HateSurfing" Can Help Your Small Business

IStock_000003795732XSmallMost of us have heard the statistic that it is about ten times more likely that someone will post a comment online about a negative experience than a positive one.  It is not hard to believe if we just imagine our own experiences.  When we are a satisfied customer, usually the easy thing to do is go merrily on our way.  If the opposite happens, however, human nature is to seek retribution and the web is the perfect conduit. 

Negativity is super easy to post online, and irresistible because of the side benefit of being able to influence people who you have never met.  Add in the simplicity of Twitter and how it allows a constant stream of 140 character rants … and anyone could be forgiven for describing the Internet as the biggest complaint box the world has ever seen.

Most social media advice you read will tell you to start by listening to what people are saying about your brand online. Find the negativity and you can engage people and hopefully turn their experience around. What if you took an even more extreme approach and dived headfirst into the negativity?

“HateSurfing” is a term that describes the act of going online specifically to read as many negative comments, blog posts, tweets and messages as possible to generate insights that can help you run your business better.

A simple example is going to any product’s page on Amazon and only reading the 1-star reviews. Or you might do a targeted search on Twitter for “hotel” and “hate” to see what people are talking about that they hate about their hotel experiences, no matter where they are staying.  There are three core principles that can help you effectively use hatesurfing to find useful insights for your business.

  1. Find the best keywords. Depending on the industry you are in, people will often use different language to complain. They might share that something “sucks” or that it was a “rip-off” or they might use emotional words like “hate” or “ignored.”  Whatever the lingo, you need to get a good sense of what it is online so you can search most effectively.
  2. Choose the right platforms.  In every category, there are places where people congregate to discuss products or services. The travel industry has TripAdvisor, retail products are reviewed on Amazon, and restaurants have Yelp. Facebook and Twitter cross boundaries and be a good place to start for any industry.
  3. Spot the insights. Amongst all the negativity that you start finding, the real value to your business will be to find the complaints which might lead to new ideas for your business. This might mean a new feature to add to your business which no one else has, but that consumers are demanding. Or you might change a business practice of yours that you currently have after you see lots of complaints about it (not necessarily directed at you).

The ultimate benefit of hatesurfing is that it can help you to run your business better, and spot the opportunities to delight customers which your competitors might be missing. 

6 thoughts on “How "HateSurfing" Can Help Your Small Business”

  1. Thanks for the new vocabulary word.

    It’s easy to get caught up all of the internal problems, but not look at the criticism that’s going on outside. Actively responding to customer criticism is one of the things that makes for a great company.

  2. Yes, I strongly believe that by having the right set of keywords it enages ones audience to search for them on the net much easier and narrows it down against one’s competitors.

  3. Hatesurfing…I like it. This seems like a good preemptive customer expectation management task.

    Originally, I was thinking “hatesurfing” would refer to an after-the-complaint search of the internet for additional customer complaints…something that a Google Alert would take care of nicely. I like the actual definition of the term more.

  4. I love how I don’t hate the word “hatesurfing!” I am generally an optimist and likes dwelling more on positive things rather than negative ones. Over time, I learned that this is a very ideal mindset and that if you want to be more realistic, you have to look at the other side of the coin too. I just hope all online businesses are conscious of this concept. It would do us all a lot of good. Your tips are largely text-based though. How do you apply it for images and videos in a website? Thanks a bunch!


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