With the tremendous growth in social media over the last two or three years, there has been a lot written about gathering consumer insights via this channel. There have also been a lot of products developed to enable marketers to track what is being said about their product or service.
While the different social media sites are rich and wonderful sources of information, I’m concerned that marketers will just take the information they receive at face value missing the context and the deeper meaning behind certain comment, complaints or compliments.
Jeffrey Henning of Vovici recently wrote a post about the attribution of social media comments in research reports and the issue of contacting consumers (http://bit.ly/axmWbg). If a consumer is talking about my brand in a public space (i.e., online) I think it is more than appropriate to introduce yourself and attempt to start a dialogue with that customer to learn what you can about what they think of your product or service, what they like or don’t like, what they think of your competition. By engaging the consumer, you’re letting them know you care about them and satisfying their needs and wants.
I think it’s absolutely critical to engage a customer who is complaining, just as if they came into your store or called you up to complain. We all know that a customer who complains, and whose complaint is successfully resolved, is more loyal than a customer that does not complain. And, imagine the value of resolving a customer’s complaint publicly. I believe that builds tremendous goodwill for your firm.
Paula Berg, formerly the social media manager for Southwest Airlines, provides a great case study where a dissatisfied customer was complaining to anyone who would listen about how they had been wronged by the airline. The disgruntled passenger refused to engage Ms. Berg. After Paula went public with her attempts to mollify the disgruntled passenger, Southwest looked like the good guy and the disgruntled passenger just looked like an immature whiner.
I encourage you to not just lurk or collect analytics when people are talking about your brand — engage them, make them your friend, show them you care, turn them into a “raving fan” that will provide referrals, testimonials and positive social media “buzz.”