With more than 8 trillion texts sent a year and over 400 million tweets sent per day, there are those who say that social media and texting has killed real conversation. They say that we never pick up the phone anymore. They shriek that we are disconnected as a community.
In 2013 though, we don’t have to do this to stay in touch. We can read updates, we can tweet, and we can share articles we think our friends will be interested in. We should of course, still make the effort to chat on the phone and have real-life conversations. But have you ever wondered how many of your friendships wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for social media helping you stay connected?
We would hope that we’ve seen the last generation of old ladies keeping the gasman on the phone just for someone to talk to. We are more connected than ever. Whether that’s to friends and family, or to strangers on the other side of the world.
The same goes for brands. Consumers have more access to brands, and brands have more access to consumers. Brands are still in the relatively unchartered territory of having to listen to customers. Really listen. Because customers are telling them out loud, in public what they think of their company. How they can improve, what they are doing right and what they want from them.
Does that sound scary?
It shouldn’t, because it’s gold.
Previously if you cared enough about the future of your company, you might carry out research to see what your consumers really thought. Brands were in a position of power, they didn’t have to listen to the ‘little man’, but that wasn’t necessarily a good position to be in.
Unhappy customers could still vote with their feet and go elsewhere, before the brand even got the chance to rectify a problem or even know that there was one.
Social media can guide your company in the right direction. It can help ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your company and the right decisions for your company to succeed.
Sure — it’s a brave new world when everything is so public and people can openly review your products and services in front of the whole world.
But if this is going to help shape your company vision and inform the decisions you make, who better to listen to than your customers?
That conversation must be two-way though. All too often we still see negative reviews unanswered, decisions being made behind closed doors and brushed under the carpet.
Recently, Amazon UK was on the receiving end of some pretty negative reviews on both their website and their social presences. One of their sellers was stocking unsavoury t-shirts, which once picked up, caused a flood of comments, posts and reviews, all asking for the merchandise to be taken off the Amazon site.
Inside the walls of Amazon, decisions were being made and they were acting upon their customer’s demands. However, you would have had no clue of this on their social platforms. Their Twitter feed was still happily posting and all comments and mentions were seemingly being ignored.
This had the effect that, even after they had removed the merchandise, people were still threatening to stop using Amazon if they didn’t remove the goods, long after the goods had actually been removed.
Amazon’s open review system is fantastic, it’s an extremely transparent way for consumers to judge the quality of their potential purchases, and as a result we’ve seen countless companies adopt the same system. It’s just a shame that, the same transparency hasn’t yet filtered through to the way some brands manage their social media platforms.
In order to mitigate the amount of posts and let people know they were being heard, ideally Amazon would have made sure the social team was in place to do the following:
- Release an update on their social pages to apologise and reassure customers that they are looking into complaints and reply direct to customers where they were able to do so
- Release another update to confirm that they have dealt with the offending products
On the surface of it, ignoring the problem does mean that eventually the problem will seemingly go away. People will inevitably get bored of tweeting about it and they will move on to the next big drama – but what does that do to the reputation of your company?
Just like our personal relationships, brand and consumer relationships only work if they are two-way. A friendship won’t survive if only one person is making the effort to keep in touch and the same goes for brands. Listening is one thing, but brands also need to make sure that consumers know they are listening.
Otherwise, you may well eventually find your brand at the bottom of the friend pile.