Have you noticed the shift? It happened almost by accident, a by-product of the evolving popularity of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Consumers (the buyers that companies focus on every single day) found themselves connected - first to 100s, then eventually to 1000s of ‘friends’ and followers via social media.
Suddenly they found themselves on a dramatically more level playing field, with the companies they buy products and services from.
The ‘Old Days’: High Barriers To Sharing and Immune Companies
Until the advent of social media, unhappy customers could take out their frustrations by contacting all their friends or acquaintances to ‘warn’ them about their experiences with particular brands. There were a few ‘natural’ barriers to this negative sharing becoming a regular occurrence:
1. High effort level to contact so many people
2. The appearance of being a whiner (or pick another term) for going to so much effort just to complain about a product
3. These efforts were ‘invisible’ to the companies that triggered them — reducing their effectiveness and impact
Today, It’s ‘Bye-Bye Barriers’
Twitter and Facebook have taken down those barriers in one big swoop — eliminating the effort barrier, extending reach and making it not only accepted but a common practice to ‘share’ negative experiences along with positive ones.
Perhaps most important is the power of the @mention or #tag on Twitter, making companies instantly aware of the messages being posted by unhappy customers. Even more dramatic is the ability for a company to see the demographic reach of that person, put a quantifiable business impact on an unresolved customer service issue. A quick look at the profile of a person can quantify what customer segments they are 1) part of and 2) have the ability to influence as well what region they reside in.
A Quantum Shift in Favour of the Customer
In our minds, what makes this whole shift more important is its impact on the mindset of companies towards social media. There’s a significant proportion of companies that still seem to hope that ’social media will just fade away like a fad’ and their approach to engaging on platforms like Twitter and Facebook shows it.
Their hope of a quick ‘fade away’ is badly misplaced because is fails to recognize the impact that social media has made on the customer-to-company relationship. Social media will survive or fail on the whims of consumers (customers) - and they are seeing a significant ‘leveling of the playing field’ as a result of social media.
It’s clear to us, seeing the dramatic way that customers have taken to social media to voice their loudest complaints against companies, that this empowerment will be one of the driving factors in the long term sustainability of social media as a medium for customer-to-company and customer-to-customer interactions.
So our advice to companies: fasten your seat-belts and get ready for a bumpy ride — social media is a platform that is here to stay and the sooner your company engages and ‘masters’ it, the better off it will be.