Don’t Forget the ‘social’ in social media

In social situations it’s considered polite to listen to what somebody is telling you before responding but many organisations don’t follow this simple etiquette. It’s a form of corporate egotism that harks back to past glories, and it’s a habit that it would be wise to unlearn.

It used to be enough – in any business – to get big and stay big. To build a product – any product – and to then sink thousands or millions into a creative advertising campaign, and then more thousands or millions into paying the owners of mass media (TV, radio, billboards) to broadcast your campaign.

You probably already know it, but this technique won’t cut it anymore.

Consider Ford. Consider IBM. Consider Research In Motion. Consider Nokia. Consider even Sony andMicrosoft. All of them dominated their respective markets at one time or another, most over decades. These companies have seen a decline in their market share in these markets, and a corresponding decline in their share value and standing in the business world. This is not to say that these companies have not or will never recover from setback, just that these organisations demonstrably lost their way.

What went wrong?

Of course, a multitude of things could have gone awry. But it’s fair to say that the aforementioned companies became big based on the success of a particular niche; cars or computers, mobile phones or consumer electronics, or software.

But the same product does not stay successful for long. Products must evolve to meet demand, and the genesis of demand is always the customer. In general terms, if companies listen to their customers and make changes to their products fast enough, it will be incredibly difficult for them to be outdone by other market players.

Compared with even just a decade ago, companies today have more opportunities than ever to listen to the market signals coming from their customers. Social media has changed the face not only of marketing, but also of production. The feedback loop between connected consumers and companies is growing smaller, and its cycles are becoming faster.

Social media allows organisations to listen to what their customers are saying in real time. Customers are generating vital feedback on products and leaving a trail of information for those organisations curious enough to seek out and exploit it.

Getting the most out of social media is not just about constantly driving sales – although Dell found success early on with precisely that. A social media strategy must collect feedback and data from customers which will in turn enable product tweaking to better fit the needs of the market.

You might not be able to change the product or service you offer on a daily basis, but monitoring and responding to feedback across the social media spectrum will not only give your customers a good experience with your brand, it will make them feel deeply embedded into the way your organisation does business, which of course they should be if your business is to remain successful.

We all like to be part of two-way relationships, rather than caught in a one-way street with somebody who only talks about ‘me, me, me’. When using social media, the equivalent would be to continually blast sales messages out without taking and responding to feedback.

As an organisation, it’s easy to forget the ‘social’ side of the ‘social media’ equation whilst getting caught up in the ‘media’ end of things. Successful organisations harness social media platforms to of course broadcast the corporate line, but also to listen to the other side of the conversation, make meaningful responses and take action based on the two-way flow that comes from social interaction.

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