When the Cluetrain Manifesto was published in 1999, it signaled a paradigm shift: markets are conversations. Today, the online space and affordability of web hosting and domain names has helped create billions of conversations about your brand, your industry, and critical key players in your space.
It’s up to you to capitalize this and leverage it effectively.
A big US brand with over 100,000 Twitter followers has run into the problem that I tweeted about above. To this well-known retailer, social media has become just one channel of many where they need to offer customer service without any care in the world for the people they’re engaging with. This thinking unfortunately minimizes the potential of true and far reaching social media strategy, creating the ability to truly connect with people and build bonds with constituents that can help them evangelize your brand and create passionate advocates.
Given my observations, both in the “canned response” department and the company’s engagement with other customers and prospects, they’ve got it all wrong. Much of their tweets are just them asking people to follow them, coupled with the must-include initials that apparently are required of their social media policy. But the tweets are so disjointed and it’s evident that their approach is lacking cohesion which actually makes them look unprofessional. Again, this is a big brand. The background of their site indicates that their Twitter presence alone is being manned by 5 employees (more seem to be active on their Twitter account, so their background may need to be updated), but they’re lost about how to really reply at all.
There are perhaps a half a dozen active employees representing this company on the Twitter account in question, and with only about 5 tweets per day, none of them really get it.
What’s your social media policy? What are your goals of social media?
Most would argue that social media is about building true relationships, which comes on top of these other marketing goals which result in sales and conversions:
- Brand awareness: People should know you exist so that they can help promote you. In this case, you need to give them reason to promote your brand. In very rare occasions does this company make the compelling argument to promote the brand. There is the occasional deal and contest, but I would find it hard to believe that people are really interested in this company’s involvement and may have followed the Twitter account as a contest entry requirement.
- Links: Links are the currency of the web. The more high quality links you get, the more trusted you are as an online resource that people can depend upon. Social media through promotions, viral content, blogging, and other methods can help drive relevant links back to your website, which in turn helps your site become more findable via search engines. If you’re selling a product, unless it’s proprietary to your own store and offered nowhere else online, chances are you have a lot of competition, so those links can significantly improve your online visibility.
- Website traffic: With links often comes traffic through the methods outlined earlier. Of course, shared links on social networks also drive traffic. Highly relevant and interesting links shared on social sites can help bring a lot of people interested in your services and products directly to you.
- Thought leadership: More for practitioners in the service industry, being a voice of your own industry can help you establish yourself as the go-to person when it comes to knowing what’s happening in your space. They end up looking up to you for tips and to steer them in the right direction. They might even come to you for partnerships, press opportunities, and client work.
Social media has its benefits, including increased awareness and affinity toward the brand. A recent study by Eloqua confirms that those who actually engage with brands on social media services are more likely to have a higher Net Promoter Score, an indicator of how likely they are to recommend the company, than the average customer. And I think that’s true for most brands on social media.
Except those who don’t get it. When looking at this company’s social media profile, they felt compelled to respond to the most nonsensical of replies, reinforcing their approach to use social media as a customer service tool without regard for the customer (or frankly the particular question). And yet, with a brand as big as this one, they only tweeted 5 times per day? Really? On the other hand, when I had a product question about a Kodak Zi6 a few months ago, I took it to my Twitter feed and a Best Buy based in Danvers, MA came to my aid, offering troubleshooting advice and tips! Now that’s one memorable way to create a great user experience. (I don’t live anywhere near Danvers, MA, but I’ll always remember this.)
Social media is about real engagement and truly connecting with people. In fact, this is why there’s such a strong argument toward some of the newer tools and technologies, including Social CRM, a customer relationship management methodology that integrates social behavior to get a clearer picture of who each individual person is. This is where we’re going. Social media is just the beginning. As this field grows, we’ll see a greater need to clearly understand each and every person who we interface with online.
Social media has grown in popularity with thousands — maybe millions — of individuals claiming their utmost expertise and selling services, even if they possess no real skill. Still, it’s been over a decade and yet even some big companies aren’t catching on. The Cluetrain Manifesto alluded to something that some companies still don’t understand: we’re no longer communicating in a traditional sense. It’s a two way conversation and this way of communicating is not going away. If anything, we’re now able to build real relationships with people who can truly make a difference. Even if you are a very large brand, there are still ways to engage your followers and show them you care. (Asking them to follow you for a DM in every other tweet isn’t the way to successfully achieve that goal!). Thankfully, there are some companies and individuals who can help steer the way.
A brand — big or small — needs to still make the effort to put the customer first. If you are going to use social media, use it right, because even if you’re big and successful, that bitter taste you leave in someone else’s mouth will disappoint, and with social media, that disappointment can spread far and easily. After all, the people you upset might have a better social media footprint than you do.
Social media. It’s not that easy.