The company found Social Media and thought it was glorious to see, “I can use this tool to help them talk about me!”
I saw this update on Facebook from Toby: ‘BIG pr agency VIP “our job is no longer control in social media; job is to arm fans with talking points to spread wom thru their social graph.” Sigh Is the “social” of social media gone forever?’
When I saw this, I realized that this thought had been bubbling up with me for a while: Most companies aren’t trying to leverage how their customers use social media to better understand them, they are trying to leverage how their customers use social media to create a new promotional channel for the company. I noticed during last Friday’s Blog World keynote with Ford’s CMO Jim Farley that he kept talking about how powerful social media was because it let Ford spread its message through its customers. I heard similar stories in other sessions and from other companies.
Good companies/organizations of Planet Earth, please understand that the promise of social media isn’t that it will let customers tell your story, but it will help you to better understand their’s.
At the Live #Blogchat at the FIRE Sessions in September, John Moore made a fabulous point: “In a way, it can be so easy and yet so difficult to engage with customers using social media. Easy meaning it’s a tool we all have at out disposal to use. Big companies, small companies, they’re using the same tools. This allows you to scale the conversation, but just because you can scale the conversation, doesn’t mean you should scale the conversation. The theme we have here today is ‘Let’s Get Dirty’, meaning hands-on…Doing it dirty, getting dirty is going in and understanding the passion and motivations behind the individual that is tweeting, blogging, updating, whatever….The ‘Easy’ part is the blast, the difficult part is to get your hands dirty, getting hands-on, and getting to know people. That takes time. Social media, for many of us, makes us lazy….Social media is so easy, but yet so difficult. We’re losing the personal touches of getting our hands dirty and taking the time to truly and individually connect on a personal level.”
John’s right. The promise of Social Media for many companies is that it provides them with a new promotional channel to reach their customers. Or better still, to connect with their customers and help them promote the brand. There is a shift in the idea of embracing a brand’s advocates, but as I told Toby on Facebook, what brands need to understand is that their advocates don’t love them for their talking points. There is some common thread that runs through the brand, that binds them. Figuring out what those ties are and truly understanding your advocates takes digging and work.
The great promise of social media is that it can help brands better communicate with, and understand their customers. With a higher level of understanding comes more effective and efficient communication, which leads to even more understanding between the brand and its customers. At some point, both groups begin to trust the other a bit, and that’s when advocacy on behalf of the customers can come into play. The end result is the brand can use social media to better understand its customers, to build trust and advocacy with them, and improve their marketing and communication efforts, making them more efficient and saving the brand money. All while improving customer satisfaction, growing customer retention rates and lowering customer acquisition costs.
Or companies can go on thinking that the beauty of social media is that it allows them to use their customers to RT their press release.
Toby Bloomberg - @tobydiva says
Mack – Thanks for writing this post. This week after listening to over 15 speakers talk about to increase “likes” and how to generate digital buzz (exactly what your graphic presents), I truly wondered if the dream of people behind brands interacting with their customers, prospects,etc “people-to-people” was Don Quixote fighting windmills.
John Moore demonstrates again why I <3 him .. and you too! Perhaps we should start a movement to bring the "social back to social media" and a quest, a la the Man of La Mancha, to find those brands who using social media to beyond a like.
Mack Collier says
Thank you Toby. I would love to feature more of these companies, but I can find few example of companies that truly ‘get’ the real value of social media, and also connecting with their customers offline, which has always been available to them.
BTW I think the real value in these interactions with customers is to take their feedback and apply it internally. I was talking to Michael Brito and Armano about this at Blog World last week. I do think many companies aren’t ready for that yet, but when they are, they will see massive gains. I look at what our friends at Dell are doing, and I think they are getting closer to being at that point.
Jennifer Kent says
Another amazing and insightful post Mack! We get so caught up building our network that we forget why we started in the first place. Size and # of RTs don’t matter if we are not taking the time to listen to people and make that effort to connect with them. Thank you for this great reminder to be better listeners.
Mack Collier says
Jennifer I don’t think many companies understand the true value of better understanding their customers via social media because so few companies are even attempting to do so. I think/hope this will be closer to Business As Usual in 5 years, but maybe not.
Jennifer Kent says
I think businesses will find they have no choice in the future. In the meantime, those who do understand the benefits can work hard to listen, understand and provide what their customers need.
I’m not even sure I understand that banner. Is it real or meant as a spoof?
Mack Collier says
Jennifer it was a spoof by Geno Church. I think the fact that you thought it might be real validates the reason for the post, so thanks 😉
Lisa Petrilli says
I can understand where Jim Farley was coming from having sat in a room full of CEOs listening to them discuss social media. The overwhelming sentiment was fear – which thoroughly surprised me.
I had expected them to be open to the power of social media to connect them more closely with their customers, to deepen loyalty, and to help them understand customer needs – all of which would lead to significant ROI. Instead, what I observed was fear due to a lack of control.
This lack of control over the message (what will our employees say about us? what will our customers say about us?) is not something that they learned to deal with early in their careers, and so they’re well outside the boundaries of the comfort zones. Even the quote from Toby’s Facebook page reflects this. The Big PR Firm VP says their job is no longer control, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do by arming their fans with talking points.
When a CMO like Jim or the Big PR Firm VP steps in the CEO’s office and presents a message that implies a bit of control…”we’ll do social media this way and then our customers will spread OUR message” that’s something that feels better – less risky.
So, I can see how this perspective would become common in the corporate environment – it’s the one that gets buy-in.
On another note, I don’t know if you saw the link I shared on Twitter earlier today via eMarketer, but it showed that the majority of companies either don’t know if their customers are commenting about them online or are convinced they’re not, and a high percentage don’t respond consistently when they do: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1008686&ecid=a6506033675d47f881651943c21c5ed4&R=1008686
I think this further shows that the mindset of companies is still, “What’s in it for me?” instead of, “What’s in it for you, the customer, and how can I help you with that?”
Excellent, thought-provoking post, Mack!
Mack Collier says
Lisa I totally agree that most companies are scared to death of actually listening to their customers. I know a lot of companies are saying that they love to listen to their customers via social media, but I am not convinced that all of them actually mean that.
This is why when I talk about why companies should better understand their customers, I talk about how they can BENEFIT by doing so. By increasing customer satisfaction, lowering marketing costs, etc. Because even today, companies are still scared of social media, for the most part. I think the comments you heard from CEOs are the norm, rather than the exception.
The misunderstanding is still there, and that breeds fear. Thanks for your comment, Ms Petrilli!
johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy) says
“What gets measured, gets manufactured.” That’s a line I’ve used many times to describe how companies are making a game out of social media. If Facebook “likes” are being viewed as a measurement of successful customer engagement then, by golly, companies can find ways to make that happen.
I believe social media is making companies lazy as it relates to meaningfully connecting with customers. It’s easy to quickly respond to a customer in “real-time” on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. However that response pales in comparison to a business connecting meaningfully to customers in the “real world.”
At the FIRE Sessions #Blogchat a question came up about how to take customer engagement to the next level using social media. It was then I jumped in the fray to say my HMO (hot marketing opinion) that picking up the phone and calling a loyal customer to thank them was the true school way to take customer engagement to the next level. That’s not the easy way to engage, but it’s a meaningful way that I hope more companies find ways to make happen.
Mack, thanks for the post and for sharing my FIRE Sessions #Blogchat HMO.
Mack Collier says
Thanks for jumping in John. I was actually the one that brought up the question about how to take customer engagement to the next level beyond just a comment or RT. The point I was trying to make was to get us thinking about how the engagement will fit into what we are actually trying to accomplish with the blog, or Twitter account, or whatever. IOW, what do we want to happen AFTER the comments on the blog, for example. Even with Robbin’s example about wanting to get her readers to email her, I would bet that she would like to see those emails develop into deeper connections that become friends and/or clients.
And I do agree with your point that social media can make companies lazy and fool them into thinking that the only way to engage with customers is via social media. It’s quick and easy to connect with customers online, but just because it’s quick and easy doesn’t mean it’s best.
Justin Gottuso says
Hey everyone! Fascinating conversation! I just had a conversation with a group of friends about how to approach social media. The wide consensus was that social media is good to the point that it helps people connect in meaningful ways and the danger is when we replace actual conversations with online communication. However, businesses for the most part are only worried about the bottom line and therefore use social media to sell products and spread ideas about themselves. Therefore, what do you think a social media strategy for a company look like that truly values what someone thinks or believes instead of whether they will buy your product or spread your newest ad campaign? And what values and structure would need to change in our businesses and mindsets in order to put relationships over results?