Yesterday at dinner with “the girls”, the discussion turned to social networks. Some didn’t quite get the appeal of Facebook and Twitter and an interesting discussion ensued. It took an even more interesting turn when one of my friends, who works for a major national brand, felt businesses really don’t want to monitor the social networks because they don’t want to know what is being said about them. While this may be true, I believe that even though the talk might not always be rosy, it’s important for brands to hear what their consumers say about their products.
Everything is an Opportunity
The way I see it, all comments are opportunities. The truth might hurt, but how is a brand to learn about what is hurting the business if they’re not monitoring the comments? This is a wonderful chance to find which areas need improvement and which areas rock. Why wouldn’t businesses want to take advantage of social media?
Good Customer Service Means Good Word of Mouth Promotion
There have been times when I complained on a social network about poor service or an item I didn’t like. Community managers from some of these brands reached out to me via the same social networks and offered to discuss. In most cases, we were able to resolve the issue in an amicable manner. After receiving such good customer service, I sung their praises to others and they received more business as a result. How can this be a bad thing?
People Trust in Brands that “Get it”
I love it when brands embrace social media or technology. When they “get it” it means they get their customers. It means they want to work with us and use the same tools we do. It means they’re not out of touch and really do wish to find the solutions that work.
Should Brands Monitor the Social Networks?
Heck yeah, brands should monitor the social networks. To not do so means they’re missing out on an important opportunity to touch base with their users. Frankly, I don’t think I would want to deal with a brand that isn’t interested in learning what I think.
How about you?
When people don’t understand something, it is easy to dismiss it as so much hype or a fad that will fade quickly. If we look back at the beginning of any number of innovations, many people had a similar reaction as to the utility of the innovation. For example, with PCs the comment was that they were a fad and people would soon come to their senses and return to the power of the mainframe. There were similar reactions to voice mail, email, the Internet and now social and New Media.
What people need to understand is that social media is an important source of information for a company, even if some of the comments are negative. In fact, the negative comments tend to validate the positive comments. Consumers need to be able to trust information about a brand–and with social media, trust is a very important factor in the relationship between a company / brand and their customers. In addition, customers should be able to trust that a company will be responsive – quickly – to mistakes and problems. A recent example of this is Motrin’s ad that upset a number of Moms. Companies need to show they understand and accept valid criticism and respond quickly to the complaints.
Monitoring only does not work. Human intervention is still necessary. Conversations and the sentiments in those conversations can be nuanced and complex. And if a company is not monitoring, things can get out of control very quickly and become a PR disaster.
Moreover, a particular benefit to monitoring the ongoing conversation about your brand can provide important insights about your brand and the consumers using your brand. With a little effort put towards a good social media strategy, companies can focus on building their funnel, augment customer service, gain valuable insights for product development, get more and better information faster, and create new skill sets within the organization that can be turned around quickly in an emergency.
Finally, companies that wait for industry best practices and enterprise-level solutions to appear, will have missed an opportunity to learn, experiment and make mistakes along with others who are willing to enter early. By waiting, companies risk making their beginner’s mistakes more public at a time when people will be less forgiving of mistakes.