Don’t burn bridges

I recently read a blog post from Dave Fleet that really put words to
something that I had been pondering for a bit. The piece was entitled Are you creating social media scorched earth? It focused on companies that burn bridges with customers with one-off social media accounts.

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There is no question that social media is the hotness for the 2010-2011 fiscal years for companies. Communications and customer service folks have been utilizing tools and building communities and brand awareness while driving revenue as a secondary benefit. The dollars brought in from people who are generally not seen as revenue drivers has given marketers a set of green blinders. You know the ones, where money clouds one’s thoughts, especially when the entry point into a medium is virtually free and is a direct outlet to customers.

Common Misconceptions

When many marketers look at social media platforms, they are immediately drawn towards the audience of the site. Facebook for example, has over 500 million users on the site. These users can be targeted with pay per click ads and if a person becomes a fan you can directly market to them without fear of the CAN-SPAM act.

As Fleet mentions in his article many companies are also making one time use accounts for specific campaigns. The thought process is that fan page for product X can be tested against product Z as to who generated more fans or followers. The sheer focus of these campaigns is acquisition and does not factor in the long-term connection with these people or other areas of the customer lifecycle.

How do we fix this?

In general social media is a lot like public relations and customer service – a support for the business channel. Much like the previously mentioned established mediums, social media touches every nook and cranny of the business.

So with that in mind, companies should aim to build a lasting impact and relationship with customers using social media. Instead of looking at the shot-term wins, the focus should be on building lifetime value and keeping customers in the company’s loop.

Doing so takes everyone’s help starting with the initial transaction or contact with the company. After the sale, offer customers ways to keep in touch with the company that they are comfortable with – email, blog, text, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  From there it is about keeping lines of communication open and pumping out great content.

Sounds easy right?

Like all forms of communication, social media requires a two-way conversation to be sustainable and mutually beneficial for customers and brands. This is a shift away from the old guard of positioning offers through tried and true marketing efforts and passing news via press release, which was the classics one-way street. Brands should not abandon these methods, but will need to evolve and create a more holistic customer cycle to thrive in the social Web that we currently live and play in.

Instead of treating customers like an anonymous mass that are bulk marketed to, companies need to look at customers in a different light and segment them by their preferred platform.

For example, CoTweet recently put out a research report, Twitter X-Factors, which showed some pretty interesting numbers when comparing regular Twitters users to all other consumers. Seventy-two percent of Twitter users blog compared to 14 percent of the rest of consumers and 61 percent of these users comment on blogs forty points higher than the rest of consumers.

Given the audience’s pension to blog and to rate and review companies and products, this is a perfect group to pool for product reviews or a refer-a-friend or loyalty program. On the flip side, if you anger this group be ready to hear about it in your Google Alerts.

Tapping into these active users on your social accounts also builds a personal connection with the brand along with offering your company real-time insight into customer behavior, likes, dislikes and potential customer issues. The only commitment is committing time to building the bridges.

But then again you can stay the status quo with a bridge to nowhere.

6 Responses to Don’t burn bridges
  1. JGoldsborough
    September 1, 2010 | 1:45 pm

    Some great insights here, Jeff. I think the hardest thing for companies is to get away from that “mass marketing” idol they’ve been worshiping for so long. So many companies struggle to be social with consumers in social media, yet research shows that’s what they want.

    Social is different than what so many traditionalists are used to because we can’t put an exact time or dollars commitment on engagement. The customers control that. And the companies that get that will win.

  2. Dave Folkens
    September 1, 2010 | 1:57 pm

    Really good topic Jeff,
    Loved the line “Brands should not abandon these methods, but will need to evolve and create a more holistic customer cycle to thrive in the social Web that we currently live and play in.” Social media is a new channel that can, and should be, used to improve how brands can provide access to their products but it has to be done in a way that’s appropriate for the customer and in a manner that supports a relationship instead of a one time hit.

  3. Anonymous
    September 1, 2010 | 2:58 pm

    Justin – the idol is very shiny and hard to get away from. So are new toys.

    I will have to disagree with you on the dollar value, only because I look at them every morning. Ways of doing this would be dollars earned over conversations or traffic sent to a particular link. Do you think a post on that would be useful?

    In terms of researchers, I feel like every company consumes the heck out of it, but doesn’t want to utilize it.

  4. Anonymous
    September 1, 2010 | 3:00 pm

    Completely agree Dave. The scary thing for companies is that it is not as easy to scale as they would like. Mass communications are awesome for this, but not so much on the social end. I would equate social to a micro business, where there is one voice communicating and thanking every customer.

  5. davefleet
    September 2, 2010 | 12:54 pm

    I like your “bridge to nowhere” metaphor. You’ve attracted people to your fan page. So what? So you can hit them with another campaign targeted at people who aren’t yet fans?

    Some companies are engaging people over the long term. Savvy agencies are embracing people with the skillset to help those companies. Most companies don’t seem to be there yet, though.

  6. Anonymous
    September 2, 2010 | 1:16 pm

    Thanks Dave. It is a shame when you see all the potential in the world go up in a poof. The problem that companies have is that they are short sided and only look through green lenses. If it doesn’t fill the coffer this week, it didn’t work.

    I agree that there are some companies and agencies doing a great job. One thing that I feel hurts the long-term view of this medium are reports showing “blanket” values of fans. As you know it is not a one-sized fits all shoe. I know what the numbers are for my company as I am sure you are for some clients and it is far from the money stated in those reports. Is social media right for everyone? No.

    The mob-mentality and do it now may have companies cooking up some email-style spam for your stream daily.

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