Tuesday, February 21, 2012

are you really my friend?

do your customers love you?

I’ve commented before about using social media for business, and suggested that it is something most businesses should be looking at. But let’s not close our eyes to the pitfalls. In a recent report in the Australian media, the supermarket chain Woolworths found out the hard way how not to handle Facebook posting.

It seems that it posted a question on its Facebook page: “Finish this sentence: this weekend I can’t wait to....” Perhaps subliminally offended by the inanity of this, some “friends” of Woolworths took the opportunity to finish the sentence with gems such as “...throw out the fruit and veg I bought at Woolworths only 3 days ago that goes off so much more quickly than the green grocers,” and other such complaints. See Woolworths Facebook page here.

In another Facebook blooper, Westpac bank began deleting critical posts about its interest rate rises, thus indicating that their social media people have not grasped the concept of marketing in this medium. If you invite people - everyone - into a conversation, you don’t get to control what they say. The real skill in using Facebook and Twitter is to see and use the positive opportunities that come with engagement with your clients and customers. 

The article mentioned above singles out Qantas as another victim of social media, with angry tweets filling the Twittersphere during an industrial relations dispute; and the National Australia Bank as an example of successful engagement with customer criticisms, responding to suggestions and critiques positively and pro-actively. Social media is an activist sphere, and a responsive business can actually be changed and improved by its customers’ suggestions.

In the past you may have paid big money to survey your customers to find out how well recognised your brand is, whether it is associated with good value, what customer concerns really are. Welcome to social media, where the customers will tell you all this in a nanosecond, given a platform. 

It’s time not to just broadcast to your customers and clients, but also to listen to what they have to say.

And they are your friends. Really.

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