In the past year, companies like Domino’s have implemented social media strategies with impressive creativity and effectiveness; but before you run to your board meeting and say “This was AWESOME, let’s invest money in social media!”, let’s step back and look at the big picture. Yes, we live in a world where many brands and businesses may benefit greatly from a social media presence. On the other hand, badly executed social media can be worse than no social media at all.
Social media is very similar to socializing. By building a presence on Facebook or Twitter and engaging with fans or potential customers, your brand announces its coming of age party. Friends, family, and fans will show up. If your brand is still awkward and socially inept, it will have an uphill battle at becoming the cool kid.
Facebook and Twitter are incredible tools for building real relationships between a customer and a brand. The key that many brands miss is that these are REAL relationships. In other words, if your friend engages you with surface level conversations, never really listens to your advice, and doesn't follow through with commitments, you will eventually re-prioritize that relationship. It’s the same in a social media relationship.
In the words of my first post-college employer, my social media motto is: “ Under-promise, over-deliver”. Fans have expectations of brands they engage with on social media. If a brand actively promises to solve customer issues and ends every day with a tweet that says they've helped a lot of people, another customer can reasonably expect they can tweet that brand’s handle and get their own issues solved or questions answered.
Let’s look at an example I experienced recently:
Late last year I upgraded my phone to a phabulous phablet. I was excited to be ditching my 4G wi-max phone for one with 4G LTE capability. I checked my carrier’s website for coverage for my home and office and went ahead and bought the phone. To my dismay it had terrible coverage at the office. I called my carrier for advice but didn't have time to wait for their customer service folk to pick up. After seeing that the carrier had a dedicated customer service Twitter handle, I tweeted the carrier:
Over the course of a few days we tweeted back and forth. They asked for my location, for me to email them the details, and for me to wipe and restart my phone to see if it would magically fix the problem. As an aside, a factory reset of a phone can fix many issues but it is a hassle to do and, given that my coverage was only bad in a few locations, I was looking for a well thought-out solution.
My biggest quibble is that, while the Twitter handle told me there was a confirmed outage in my area, the actual technician I spoke to on the phone later said there had been no outages and that I shouldn't listen to their social media team because they don’t have access to the correct information.
If a brand is going to have a social media presence, it needs to be a representation of the brand as a whole. You might be thinking my harassment deserved the terrible customer service. I appreciate that; however, it is difficult to understand the value in a company investing in a social media presence, when that presence is only skin deep. My experience taught me that their departments are very out of touch with each other and that I shouldn't engage their social media “customer care” team for… customer care.
When a brand invests in social media it needs to establish a proper infrastructure that will allow its social media team to engage in deeper conversations with its followers. They need to be able to solve customer issues and show how customer feedback is being taken seriously and delivered to the appropriate departments in their company. Otherwise, social media becomes a public outlet for users to complain and torment their community managers.
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