Commodity service brands and social media - quick quote

Doing more reading these days and just picked up another doozy from Roger Hislop, Sentient Communications. He's talking about iBurst's efforts in using social media as a service channel and doing damage control through positive, pro-active engagement with unhappy customers. This quick quote perfectly sums up the issue I've been battling with when looking at commodity service brands and social media. There isn't much to talk about except complaints - and unless you are willing (TRULY willing) to fix the base problem that caused the complaint in the first place - don't bother with social media.
The reality is that a company providing a "commodity" consumer service such as telecoms will typically have a slightly negative online score - people generally speak up when they're unhappy. Everything working fine is what users expect - the marketing team is realistic about how much you can "surprise and delight" a customer with a service that is only remarkable to users when it's not working!
It's a lot easier for sexy brands. It's a lot easier for sponsorship projects (and this is where I do believe service brands have a space to play). That's stuff I want to talk about. Otherwise, just get your product to work and don't bombard me with shallow, wishy-washy comms plans and vacant tweets.



  1. We understand your concern for fixing the base issues before engaging with customers in social media. We believe however, that the point is to be transparent and relational, and therefore honest.

    Let’s look at the philosophy of marketing, that is, to fulfil the needs of consumers in a way that is mutually beneficial for both the consumer and the business alike. And in order for marketers to enable themselves to fulfil those needs, they need to listen.

    In an interview, Jessica Clark, director for the Future of Public Media Project for the Centre for Social Media at America University, said: "Social media are value neutral; their main virtue is the promise of democratic communication. This brings along with it all of the difficulties of democratic society...incivility, bullying, bias, prejudice, privatization, power struggles. These problems aren't a reason to dismiss or fear social media platforms; they're a challenge to each of us to fight for parity, transparency, access and openness."

    An essential aspect of social media that is often overlooked is the difference between the various social media orientations. The one which most identify with is social media promotion, which essentially entails creating a buzz around a brand and all things viral. Social media marketing on the other hand is aimed at engaging with consumers. Assisting, listening, conversing and building relationships. This arena is, however, completely democratic (with all the good and bad that comes with it), so that marketers can enable themselves to listen to what is being said, respond, and improve.

    Customers will complain online. Rather this takes place on a platform where they can engage with the brand, and find solutions for their issues. Brands’ Sosicl Media environ’s are also most accessible for consumers, as they’re already engaging with peers and the like on these platforms and thus more familiar with the functioning thereof . We have certainly seen a turnaround in consumer attitude over the last couple of weeks, where people are relieved to have a channel for open, two-way communicationEvery brand has its challenges. So too does every social media platform.

    A great social media campaign to us means engaging with your audience, rewarding them for their participation... but most importantly, having the system in place to listen and RESPOND!
    What we get over and over from clients, is that their “big bosses” do not believe in the concept of social media, but that they would still like to be in the space “since everyone else is doing it”, and this is where the problem lies. Social media needs to be integrated – from inception – into the overall marketing strategy and corporate identity. If brands believe in the founding principles of marketing being “creating and promoting products that your target market needs” then social media can be the ultimate channel to learn exactly what it is that consumers want, where they can access it, and all the other blah, blah of marketing. . . Or you could be like that Ford guy that just made the one black car...

    Kind regards

  2. @Landi - you know what, that comment was so cool, and debate-ish, that I'm going to turn my reply into a post, crediting you paragraph by paragraph. Check back in 15 minutes...


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