On social networks people talk with their circle of contacts of the topics that interest them, and this probably excludes 99% of global brands. The remaining 1% (mostly related to leisure, clothing brands, movies, artists, gadgets …) of the conversations rarely have to do with what marketeers claim. Nobody says “since I bought some Nike, I’m Michael Jordan” but “what model of footwear would you recommend to play basketball?”
The brands that succeed in these conversations do not only have an efficient social media strategy, but they actually provide a high level of customer service, which is highly rated and appreciated by their customers.
This is not to say that it is useless to a design an appropriate strategy in social media. Quite the opposite. I am simply saying that the key to success in social media is measured by an increased level of customer satisfaction thanks to the service we provide.
For example: Salman Rushdie is a writer who spends time himself on social media. He has a very active twitter account where he talks to his readers on various topics from litterature to television series. His proactive approach has forced even Facebook to change its policy towards “real names”. This attitude will win him more readers, and loyalty from his regular readers, starting with myself. In fact, I received a thank you message from him when I called him the “Chuck Norris of litterature”. But the essence of his success is that it is a genius writer, and he sells books.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, perhaps because of his age, does not have any social media presence. Moreover, it was not until a few days ago, coinciding with his 85th birthday, which is more and more in adequation with his book, “One Hundred Years of Solitude“. He doesn’t talk to your fans, he does not care about his digital presence… But anyway, the lovers of litterature speak of him greatly and regularly. He is one of the most important writers in history and this is how people talk about him on social networks.
Now consider a kind of “writer” very common lately: he knows how to promote his books on social media. In some cases he is “self-published”. Generally his work can be downloaded for free or at nominal cost in digital format, tapping into the freemium trend. Knowing how to get media presence, involving “celebrities” to promote his work, he knows how to make you mention him and he is present in all digital forums on litterature. However, despite the sympathy aroused, his books are mediocre. You think he would be better off if he had invested all that energy to read more and write more carefully.
Business matters are similar. Starbucks does a very good job in social media and they are driving business through excellent digital engagement with their fans. Zara has ignored the phenomenon for too long and now the Spanish brand is struggling to catch up on social networks. They are wasting an opportunity to significantly grow their business, despite the fact that million of people everyday are sharing their thoughts and love for clothes on the likes of facebook or twitter.
Before launching a poor social media presence, characterised by monologues with very limited engagement, mobile operators or bakeries in my neighborhood should strive to offer quality products that satisfy their customers who are the ones who share their personal experience on social media channels.
In my opinion, another point that is overvalued is the customer service on social networks. At a recent banking and financial services event, I have heard colleagues from other financial institutions boasting about a client because his travel in Japan is a cash card was swallowed up at 3 am, and via twitter might help you in minutes. In my opinion this is a wrong strategy.
Which companies could be considered “winners” in the area of social media? Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Google, Instagram, Pinterest…? Have you tried to “scream” on social media channels that the new iPhone is not a good product? If someone answers, it will surely be of the mobile operator who sold you the phone (dealer), but not Apple. Have you ever tried to contact someone at Facebook or Twitter to share your problem as a user? It is mission impossible. Same with Google.
No, paradoxically none of the leading digital companies provide any decent level of customer care on social media channels.
And conventional companies that do so are due to fail resulting from their traditional customer service channels. A customer must be given the best service whenever the transaction occurs, whether he is in a shop, at a branch or on the web. This is precisely when the consumer does not find an answer in these channels that he goes to the “public square” to express his anger. The energies used in calming clients on twitter should be invested in avoiding those frustrations in the first place, wherever they occurred.
As I say I’m a fan of social media, but I think (as opposed to marketing) that engaging in social media conversations won’t lead anywhere if your products or services are poor. The successful financial institutions are the ones which will focus on important matters such as safety, professionalism, innovation, profitability or customer service.
Every social media strategy should be based on them, or face the risk to quickly become worthless.