Attack of the Fifty Foot Customer

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Try thinking about social media’s impact to business like this:
Imagine that you’re waiting in line at a service counter (yes, an actual counter, with an actual line of people).  An angry man in front of you is demanding to “speak to a supervisor” loudly enough so that the whole room can hear.  Now, imagine that the guy is fifty feet tall, the room is big enough to hold everyone following the company, and each of them runs a different news agency from their smartphone.  How does the company’s response change?   
Not long after the first “hey, look – we’re on social media” moment, businesses realized that “oh, yeah, it’s social media.” Customers didn’t just read, they engaged and initiated.  At least, they tried to -- most companies either shuffled customers off to a standard service channel, or ignored their messages altogether.   Many still do, and they’re losing customers when they could be accelerating growth.  As this infographic from 1to1 Media  illustrates, some companies are earning big rewards with a customer-centric social media strategy, while others are struggling to catch up.

The usage statistics are interesting, but they really just serve to validate the obvious truth: social media is now part of how we interact as a species, and no longer in the customer experience periphery.  Look at the value proposition of a strong social media presence, and compare it to the low level of response to customer feedback via social.  We may think that we are our own brand architects, but intellectually we know that customers who follow us are connected to each other through us.  Their shared experiences are a stronger narrative than any campaign.
Social media is the great equalizer: It doesn’t take a big budget to get out there and start tweeting, but even smaller companies are learning to take a holistic, integrated approach that enhances a larger customer experience strategy.  This article, also from 1to1 Media, includes a good example of a smaller company doing social media right, as well as some great guidance from industry professionals.  Some key takeaways:
“Community” over “customer base”:  When people share with each other, they start to care as a collective.  Companies that actively nurture and participate with these organic, self-created communities are on a fast track to growth.   It is a set of customers who want to provide data, desire a deeper level of engagement, and feel a sense of shared identity with a brand -- what’s not to love about that? The business needs to show up to the party, though.  Customers will stop helping to guide innovation if the engagement is one-sided. 
“Sorry” can’t be the hardest word anymore: According to the 2013 Meaningful Brands study done by Havas Media, consumers want to identify with socially responsible companies that actively improve our general well-being.  If something happens to compromise a company’s reputation, honest and direct ownership -- followed by transparent resolution -- will protect a brand better than any blame game.
The truck driver?  He’s in Marketing, too: Every employee is a social media representative, regardless of qualification or audience.   Companies with a truly holistic social media strategy start with their employees, who can strengthen or weaken a company across any channel they frequent.   The best brand stewards might not be the fastest social media adopters, but they understand the brand’s voice, have followers of their own, and with the right coaching, they will drive the right kind of engagement.
To read the full story from 1to1 Media, click here.

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