by MACK COLLIER
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.