The old order is being turned on its head; companies used to being in control of their customers and their brand are now finding customers are wresting control from them and that they need to adapt or face obscurity.
The enabler behind this is, of course, social media. Customers are now able and willing to discuss their experiences with friends and followers around the world, and companies ignore them at their peril. And yet, it seems to be more common for companies to ignore what is being said on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on YouTube, and on all the other social platforms around the world.
Even though some two thirds of Fortune 500 companies have a Twitter account, and more than half have Facebook and YouTube accounts, they’re just not listening – reports indicate that 43% of all companies have never responded to a single Tweet, while only a quarter of companies respond to a comment posted on their Facebook page.
All this does is reinforce the view that companies are not interested in their customers. Better to have no presence at all than a presence where you don’t respond (the same goes for “customer-service” telephone lines and email addresses!).
However, the fact of the matter is that nowadays you HAVE to listen to what your customers are saying and you MUST respond. That’s the best way to turn customers into brand advocates – and isn’t that what every business wants? What’s more, it’s worth remembering that your products and services are only as good as your customers think they are and that they’re prepared to pay for; it’s much better to know they’re unhappy sooner than later, so you can fix the problem.
Word of mouth has always been the strongest way for businesses to grow – or shrink – and all that social media is doing is enabling this process to operate more quickly, and a lot more widely.
Companies that have embraced this – think Zappos and Starbucks (or Threadless, the T-shirt company that went from startup in 2000 to $30M in revenue last year) – are rewriting the rules for customer service, marketing and the way they’re perceived. Ask Comcast, who went from ignoring social media to an advocate and transformed the company’s image.
While the positive impact is clear and quick to see, the negative impact on companies that do it wrong will take longer to be really apparent – they suffer a slow, steady decline in brand image with all that follows from this – so the good news is there’s still time to adapt, but they shouldn’t wait too much longer.
As Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” If you’re not in the social media room, you’ll never know – and what you don’t know, you can’t fix.
By embracing social media, having conversations with your customers and other stakeholders, you will greatly strengthen your brand and your company.
About the author: Guy Whitcroft, Director and Principal Consultant with CapitalSteps, is a seasoned senior technology executive with more than 30 years of experience across all areas of the IT market. Prior to joining CapitalSteps, Whitcroft was Group COO of Aptec Holdings, a leading Middle-East distribution group and spent some 15 years before that with Southern Africa’s largest and most successful distribution group, MB Technologies. Whitcroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org