This post was submitted to YouBlog by Kathy Milette, who runs a marketing blog called The Wet Foot Journey, an exploration of marketing, brand, and customer experience.

Kia doesn’t care about my family. And more specifically, Hatfield Kia, the dealer we purchased our Kia Sedona minivan from, doesn’t care about my family. I’ve gone through annoyance, irritation, complaining, ranting (I’d classify this article as a rant), and I am almost at the “Get Over It” or “Get Rid Of It” stage. But why should you care?

I’m not going to go into a lengthy description about Kia’s indifference, their nice enough but unhelpful service, or their inefficiency. However, I will use Kia as an example of how, if one were so inclined, one could exploit the power and reach of social media to broadcast one’s distate of a particular company. Like mine for Kia.

Years ago, I would have gone through the following motions if I was unhappy with a company:

  • Talk with a company representative (Did it. Got two free oil changes, and “These problems are to be expected with a new model year.”)
  • Write a complaint e-mail to whatever contact is listed on the corporate website (Check! The reply was less than satisfying.)
  • Do a little research and write a complaint letter cc:ing various managers and executlives (Actually, I got names off of Hoovers. Sent letters to 7 people. No reply.)
  • Contact a consumer hot line and maybe the better business bureau. (Haven’t gone this far yet, but may.)

Today, with social media, I have so many more interesting options to have my voice heard — if not by a company that doesn’t seem to want to listen, than by a community of consumers who rely more and more on peer reviews and recommendations.

Write an Article and Pay Attention to SEO Copywriting
Well, you’re reading the article. And I may not be an SEO specialist, but I know a couple of easy ways to optimize this article for organic search engine results.

  • Pick relevant keywords: I’ll choose Kia, Sedona, and minivan, and combinations thereof. Like Kia Sedona, Sedona minivan, Kia minivan.
  • Include these keywords in both the page title, first paragraph, and scattered throughout the article. No need to go overboard. Kia, Kia, Kia.

Make a Web Page While in a Spiteful Mood
Set up a web page devoted to the company you are fed up with. For example, kiadoesntcare.googlepages.com.

Using Google Pages is a great, easy, free way to develop a simple website. No need to know any type of programming, find and pay for hosting, or buy a domain name. However, you could always go ahead and buy a domain name (like kiadoesntcare.com) for about $10/yr, and redirect it to your Google Pages page.

Heck, I could even make a Squidoo lens and hope to get some traffic from the Squidoo community.

And if I was really spiteful, I’d include positive reviews and links to Kia Sedona competitors, like the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Caravan, or Nissan Quest.

Use YouTube
I think potential Kia minivan owners would be interested to watch me try to put three toddlers into the carseats of our Sedona, in the middle of winter, with both sliding side doors frozen shut (not to mention all the windows, so no drive-thru coffee on a cold winter’s day. Boo-hoo.)

I could then post this video to YouTube, and of course, email my friends and family the link to check it out. I think the moms in my childrens’ playgroup would be especially sympathetic.

Oh, and of course I’d post it on my newly minted website.

Exploit Your Social Networks
If you’re into social media and the whole Web 2.0 thing, chances are you’ve joined some online communities where you could communicate your customer/product/service experience.

For example, I belong to Facebook. I could join some of its anti-Kia groups, like “KIA…Fastest Breaking Down Autos in the World” or “DON’T BUY A KIA”. But really, I’d be preaching to the choir.

Instead, if I really wanted to be obnoxious, I would join pro-Kia groups, like “I drive a Kia!”, or “Proud to drive a KIA”. I’m not sure joining any of this would make a real impact, other than giving me another outlet to voice my frustrations. However, I found “IGot”, a Facebook application that lets me post a review of my Kia minivan (or anything else I have) and post it on my wall.

(Also, when Seesmic moves out of beta, I could chronicle my visits to Hatfield Kia, and post this diary on my Facebook page. Or my Kia Doesn’t Care webpage.)

I’m also pretty active at Gooruze, a site for online marketers to share ideas, ask questions, make friends, and continue learning about social media and how it impacts marketing. They encourage the community to share articles that may be of interest to other marketers. This article may be relevant both professionally, as an example of how social media makes it difficult for companies to control discussion of their brand, but also personally, as many gooru’s are likely to be parents.

And don’t forget to tweet your network on Twitter. Maybe a quick mention that you are in the process of writing your company complaint article, or updating your “Company Doesn’t Care” web page.

Troll the Company’s Corporate Blog
If I weren’t so passive agressive, I could find an opportunity (or two) to comment on Kia’s blog. And I’d find a way to comment about my experience on Kia’s competitors’ blogs.

Seek out Sympathetic Blogs, Pitch Your Woes, Comment Your Complaints
Find blogs that relate to your product/service problems. In my case, there have got to be some automotive bloggers out there, just dying for a story and willing to hear my Kia woes. Or maybe I could just comment on their blogs. A quick Google search yeilds AutoBlog, and Cars! Cars! Cars!

Other types of blogs might be interested in your story, too. A brand blog? A customer experience blog? For someone really ticked off at an unresponsive company, they could check out Technorati or Google Blog Search to find blogs and bloggers looking for examples of brand-wrong companies. Be forewarned: bloggers hate unsolicited pitches, especially from people who aren’t familiar with their blog or point of view.

Social News and Social Bookmarking Sites
There is no shortage of social news sites, and plenty of people looking to submit stories. With any luck, readers might submit this article to places like Mixx, Digg, StumbleUpon, Sphinn…pick your flavor. Mixx allows members of groups to forward submitted stories to others in the group, further spreading a story’s reach.

One could also bookmark this article somewhere like Del.icio.us or Furl to help remember these various social media tactics, where it can also gain some extra exposure.

Don’t Forget the Complements
There are so many complement community sites that, if one was willing to put forth the energy, they could spread their message of disgust all over the web. In the case of Kia, these complementary sites include places like IVillage, TheBabyWearer, TheParentReport, or ParentsConnect — ones with message boards and forums discussing children and everything associated with them — strollers, daycare, first foods, minivans, etc.

Leave Reviews on Relevant Websites
This would be an obvious first step, but I’m putting it here because it’s so conventional. In my case, the internet is one of the first places people turn to for car research. I could easily go to Automotive.com. CarReview.com, or even Epinions.com and write a review or post a message in their forums related to our Sedona, our Kia customer service, or my Kia dealer issues.

If I was really motivated, I could even register on AutoSpies.com, a social networking site for auto enthusiasts, where I could vote, post articles, and write comments about my lousy Kia Sedona minivan experience.

Finally, Take Care of the Basics and Hope for a Chain Reaction
As a last and final step, shoot your family and close friends an email. If you’re passionate enough about a poor customer experience to spam your loved ones with your troubles, you’re bound to get some sympathy, and maybe a forward or two along to their friends and family.

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Social media gives the average consumer new places to vent, to rant, to share, to provoke. The list above is a launching pad for some of the most obvious places to reach others with your thoughts and experiences — both positive and negative. What are some other ways we can get our points across?