Often when businesses take the plunge into leveraging social software platforms, start building online communities, and go the social media route they are not always prepared with what to expect. It can take a different mindset to be a “social” business.
This mindset change is especially difficult for larger more traditional ‘corporate’ businesses who are accustomed to communicating the corporate way.
What do we mean by that?
Well, having a marketing communications department that sends out publications, advertisements, brand messages, and other strategically crafted communications to their customers often shield themselves behind a PR department, if by any chance the customers voice their opinions and some damage control needs to be done. Oddly enough, that damage control is once again done by carefully crafted communications thrown out to customers again.
When businesses go the social way, the interaction is a lot more personal and the shields that were in place to protect any customer backlash fall very quickly. When you decide to take the plunge into social customer support software, interact with the community, and really put your business out there in front of your customers you need to be prepared to take on any feedback within your stride, both good and bad.
The Forrester Groundswell blog published a great post on why marketers have trouble with full-duplex social technology and say:
The people in charge of talking are in the marketing department. The people in charge of listening are in the research or service or sales department. They hardly ever talk to each other, let alone have two way marketing or full-duplex conversations with customers.
This won’t fly in social technology because the minute you talk, people expect you to listen. And if you start to listen, you’ll be tempted to talk. It’s a full-duplex channel that befuddles one-way-marketers.
Online, it’s a world of free speech, and if customers and online users are happy with your business, they will go an extra mile to spread the word and market your company for you. If they don’t like your business, product, or offering they will go the extra mile to make their opinion known to all — and there are known instances of businesses that were made and taken down by the online community.
Business taken to the “social” world needs to be social. That’s not to say it should not be professional, but you need to be ready to address individuals communications and be more personal in nature.
If a business takes a hit from a customer in the form of a blog comment to a post on one of its products, a reply like this wont go down too well:
“Dear Mr. Sparks, We believe your negative feedback on our latest product launch has been passed on to the R&D department for consideration. We will inform you of further developments.”
A better approach might be …
“Hey Jeremy, that’s some strong reaction there but we’ll take that into consideration while rolling out the next version of the product. Thanks for the feedback!”
That is just one example of the mindset and approach that businesses need to be aware of while taking on social media and online communities.
The benefits are clearly worth any risks, but when you put yourself out there, it’s good to know what you are dealing with … and, like the good old boy scout motto says … “be prepared!”