By Christy Uher Ferguson
I recently read that by 2015, mobile phone usage and browsing will surpass desktop computer usage. The effect? As marketers, CMOs, and brand-builders are seeking new models to interact with customers in the digital age, they are simultaneously losing direct control. We’re experiencing a loss of brand control due largely to the increasingly dominant customerr presence on social channels. The bad news—there’s no reversing or stopping the trend. The good news—you don’t have to, and shouldn’t.
A few weeks ago, I took a short vacation to spend time with family. We chose to return to a fabulous resort we’d come across a few years ago. The return visit was just as impressionable as the first. If we ever get back to that part of the world, rest assured, they will have a return customer yet again. I’m part of a trend—70 percent of consumers give their business to companies based on how they’ve been treated in the past.
Whether it was the welcome amenity waiting in our room, or the exceptional friendliness of the staff, I was quickly impressed. And as many customers do when emotionally evoked by a brand, I pulled out my phone to share a tweet. I’m part of another trend—by the end of 2017, 4 billion people will own smartphones. At the end of our stay, we took a moment to graciously thank the Food and Beverage manager who went out of his way to ensure that we had not only a fabulous dinner, but an amazing experience over the few days we were there. I again turned to my phone, and praised his dedication to the property guests via Twitter. It was important to me that I recognize the exceptional service he provided and that future guests and the corporate team knew he was a rock star! This happens every day, by a tremendous number of people. In fact, more than half of smartphone users spend an average of 40 minutes per day accessing the Internet on their phone! Most of that time is spent on social channels.
Of course, not all customers have something positive to share. Many are using social media to share negative experiences (I’ll admit, I’ve done it myself). It follows, then, that social channels provide both tremendous opportunity and pose potential issues depending upon perceptions and experiences with a brand. So, how can big brands become social marketers and use customer conversation to ignite conversation? It’s all about the four E’s: engage, educate, excite and evangelize.
The Four E’s of Social Media
Social is here to stay—97 percent of marketers are using social media to market their brand. This opens the door for greater debate and conversation with consumers where they are. Three-fourths of consumers use social media. Social is the new norm. The goal, then, for marketers should be this: provide transparent, authentic customer service and experience across all channels. Then watch the wildfire spread. Let go. It’s your customers who make or break a brand. It’s the network of all those connected to a brand that define it. So, who’s driving your brand?