Let Go of the Fear and Own Social ~via @InsideCXM

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on Apr 17, 14 • by • with 8 Comments

Just about every business owner recognizes the importance of using social media. To that end, they arrange for web sites to be built, have accounts on all the major social networking sites, and regularly post information about what their businesses are offering and doing. While that’s fine, these efforts are still relying mainly on pushing information toward consumers and attempting to treat their responses like data. That’s where things need to change.

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Social Empowerment and Relationships

Whether brands want to admit it or not, consumers already have social empowerment, and they’re using it every day. They do more than read what brands post on their Facebook pages or their Twitter accounts. They also decide whether to comment on those posts or share them in some manner with their friends. In short, the very nature of social gives consumers the power to take the information and use it any way they see fit.

For many executives and business owners, this is difficult to face. They’re used to being in control of their information and deciding what is done with it. They’re used to traditional advertising campaigns and using focus groups to develop products—doing things the way they’ve always done them. Digital disruption has thrown a monkey wrench into everything they’re familiar with, and many are unwilling to let go of that control.

But you know what? It’s time to stop complaining, to stop being afraid and to learn to make the most of it. There’s no going back to business as usual. Rather than fighting it, innovative companies have seen this coming and are acting on it—shifting their mindset from controlling the conversation to listening and facilitating the new social conversation. It’s a shift every brand will need to learn to make, both internally and externally. Doing so will make it easier to see consumers as people rather than data, to empower your employees and advocates to share your story, and to create a return on relationship that’s greater than anything you’ve ever experienced.

A Return to a Small Town Approach

In many ways, the modern world of social networking is a lot like doing business in a small town. In that environment, people are buying from their friends – their neighbors – people they see every day. They know each other’s spouses and kids; they go to the same restaurants, and they remember each other’s birthdays. The selling process is all about relationships, and how those relationships work to provide benefits to both parties.

With social empowerment, this return to listening and learning–getting to know customers as friends and not simply statistics—takes a lot of effort. Since new people come into the circle of friends constantly, and the opinions of old friends are subject to change, it means that brands must be willing to change with them. It means listening to what they have to say, asking questions to clarify what they mean, and then taking what they say to heart. That’s not easy, especially for anyone who has for years been used to working with impersonal data and using it to design everything from packaging to mass media campaigns.

Let Go of the Fear

To my mind, true social empowerment means recognizing the fears you have regarding social communication and learning to overcome them. Admit you have some fear of a changing business landscape. Admit that you fear relationships will change over time. Admit that all the control is no longer in your hands. Once that’s done, it’s much easier to step back and begin to ask the really hard questions:

- How do I fit in to this different way of thinking?

- What can I do to build relationships that last?

- How do I empower my employees to really listen and make connections with our customers?

Adjusting to this brave new world takes guts. It means getting beaten up a little. Even so, I believe it’s essential if you want your company to move forward. Get out of your own way. Start going where people talk, and start listening to what they have to say. Use that knowledge to write a strategy for delivering more value and better customer experience, as well as create a more collaborative internal environment. The tools are out there—and if you’ll step out on faith and use them, you can build relationships and make your brand stronger than ever.

Originally posted at InsideCXM -   // Expert Insight

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8 Responses to: Let Go of the Fear and Own...

  1. Blake says:

    I agree, many “old school” companies are operating out of fear of all the changes that are happening. That is no way to live or operate a business. Sometimes you need to just lean in and be an innovator in the space.

  2. Ted Rubin says:

    At this point it is past being just an innovator, it is, as Erik Qualman likes to say…. “The ROI of Social Media is that you will be in business in 5 years.”

  3. Shann Biglione says:

    “The ROI of Social Media is that you will be in business in 5 years” is, pardon my French, bullshit. Now I get that “relationships” is your turf, but you really need to get your head out of the social industry if you really believe this, because you are falling prey to the age old “confirmation bias”. I respect social, I have put together a lot of social strategies in my career and am convinced there is a role for it, but arguing this is a matter of survival is a delusional overstatement. There is absolutely not a single piece of scientific evidence this is going to happen. Not even the beginning of a trend. As a matter of fact, the only evidence I have seen this far points to the contrary: the vast majority of consumers couldn’t care less about having “relationships” with 99.99% of brands, and your biggest fans should not be the priority target of your marketing.

    • Ted Rubin says:

      It’s not about the social “industry” Shann, it’s about where communication, collaborative consumption, and overall insight is into every facet of business. You think of Social Media like it sounds, about Media, I think very soon it will just be called Social, and only because it needs to be called something. It will be about how every organization interacts internally and externally. And as far as consumers go, the world IMHO is reverting back to the day when consumers did want to know and have a relationship with brands, retailers, “merchants.” Close your eyes to it, and perhaps not in 5 years, but as Erik is pointing out, it will cause you to be less competitive and left behind.

      • Shann Biglione says:

        I just don’t see any number that shows this trend to be remotely true. As a matter of fact I see plenty of “interruptive” brands doing perfectly well.

        Let’s remind ourselves that being competitive means growing your market penetration. That means being able to attract new consumers without sacrificing your profit margin on products you sell. The rest is mumbo jumbo.

        Let me quote you here:
        “Whether brands want to admit it or not, consumers already have social empowerment, and they’re using it every day. They do more than read what brands post on their Facebook pages or their Twitter accounts. They also decide whether to comment on those posts or share them in some manner with their friends. In short, the very nature of social gives consumers the power to take the information and use it any way they see fit.”

        First of all, data shows that they don’t read much of it at all, and this declines every quarter. Second of all, the interaction rates are amazingly low, and again on the downward trend thanks to social platforms’ algorithms. The numbers are not good, and only someone who’s only worked in social could still be excited by the terribly underwhelming engagement numbers we see. You know what power consumers really have? A life. And “brand relationships” (whatever that really means) get in the way, even more so than a 30 sec TV spot. As a matter of fact, most of the content consumers tend to get excited about are TV spots (Superbowl ads for instance) or viral videos (like Volvo). Even the (fantastic) Oreo campaign was a beautiful piece of creative with no engagement built in whatsoever.

        Consumers never wanted to have a “relationship” with brands in the first place, so I’m not sure what kind of parallel universe you are referring to. In reality consumers will always use brands to make their decision process faster and easier. It’s about taking a shortcut to a decision so that we don’t ponder for 10 hours while entering a store. In some categories, there will be more involvement than others, but to a very (very) few exceptions never have brands ever been about “relationships”, this is a major misunderstanding of what marketing and branding is about – perpetrated by gurus who still believe people are loyal to brands they “fall in love” with. Now when there is a human interaction, sure you need to be able to have a discussion (a complaint, a sales pitch etc.). Making sure your service doesn’t suck is important. But this has absolutely nothing to do with brands needing a relationship with their customers to grow their business. As a matter of fact, the kind of businesses that need a special relationship (like luxury brands for instance, whose sales associates often know their good customers by name) have historically been pretty good at it and never waited for social specialists to arrive. Let’s look at some facts: loyalty is a mirage, brand CRM is more often than not delivering poor real ROI (in fact data shows that acquisition is cheaper than retention contrary to popular belief), and brands that focus on relationship with their heavy users rather than high reach of their non users will fail. Fixing your customer experience to be there if someone asks for something is important, but this is not news and it mostly helps not losing your customers, rather than winning new ones.

        If you don’t believe me, remember that Apple was built entirely without “social” in mind (Steve Jobs actually was a fantastic traditional advertiser), or look at Pepsi who lost 5% market share by dropping their interruption strategy in favor of participation. They still haven’t recovered.

        And I recommend reading books like How Brands Grow or the Halo Effect, they are more informative than 99% of the nonsense you’ll read on AdAge or at conferences. They certainly woke me up…

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