In the beginning there was social media. And companies scrambled to create their presence on twitter, facebook, and in the blogosphere, not wanting to be left behind. Now what? “We need to engage our customers!” Corporate twitter accounts chirped cheery tweets by the hour, and then Spambots battled spambots. The corporate social media team thought it was all about push and brand awareness and building loyalty.
Then twitter became the complaint line of choice. Having a complaint go viral became a great way to feel empowered, boost self esteem and bully the big corporate types. Trolls lurk on corporate facebook pages, co-opting every cheerful post by the corporate social media team with endless repetition of their gripes and calls for boycotts.
NEWSFLASH: Your consumers are not as interested in interacting with your brand via social media as they are gaining more transparency into your business and the products you provide. When they don’t like what they see, taste, hear, smell or find out about you, they will react brutally and swiftly, enlisting their evil tweeting minions to pile on to their cause–and overnight you will have a viral PR mess to deal with.
Here’s an example of the type of social media threats to your reputation that lie outside your control. Are you tapped in to monitor this site and any others that might be popping up to negatively influence consumer decision-making?
- Sourcemap makes supply chains transparent to customers and consumers. This is good news if you want to differentiate your product because you are committed to ethical sourcing. It will become a headache if you are involved with things like sweatshop labor in the third world. You will need to respond quickly across ALL channels if the word gets out on twitter that your products have negative health or political considerations.
If you don’t believe me, hop over to twitter and see what brands are under threat of boycott right now. While writing this I see AHAVA, Starbucks, Monsanto, Koch Brothers and of course, BP, and I haven’t even started scrolling yet.
OK, its important to stay on top of this, but not just to address complaints, promote new products, and defend your brand. The difficulties highlighted above should not deter you from leveraging social media to the fullest. The really exciting new applications of social media are happening elsewhere in the business:
- Smart companies are leveraging social media to build more intimate supplier relationships, creating a more level playing field between large and small suppliers.
- Demand planning teams can and should leverage social media to gain advance insight into changes in consumer demand. This can radically transform the way clothing manufacturers do their seasonal line planning, for example. Imagine the culture change in an industry that historically hasn’t even been able to track against key KPIs.
- Social media now drives innovation. The smartest companies are extending internal R&D by crowdsourcing new product ideas and product tweaks.
- Internal continuous improvement teams are leveraging tools like Yammer to move improvement teams out of the creativity-sapping white board walled meeting rooms and into virtual asynchronous interactions that capture good ideas whenever they occur.
Parting thought: act quickly but look before you leap!
The very fact that social media has so much to offer to so many functions within the business means that there is danger of creating social media in smokestacks within your business, with each department quickly implementing its own tools to gain insight within a comparatively narrow lens. Social media tools need to fit within an overall application roadmap that takes into consideration where your ERP and CRM partners are heading, how existing tools integrate with your current applications, and how you can slide and dice the data appropriately to get the insights you need to respond rapidly.