Social Media Overwhelm – Don’t Build a Ghost Town

by on July 1, 2009

in Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, Strategy, Twitter

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/evert-jan/1438719691/

The Other Side Group recently wrote a blog post about Keeping Social Media Social. She said that people can get to a state with social media where they subscribe to a large number of people, but filter out everyone but a select few to compensate for the information overload. Participation with the masses goes down, and results in one-way conversations that are no different from traditional marketing.

I think there are two benefits to social media that are different than traditional media. The first is listening - companies now have the ability to hear what people are saying in ways they never could before. Blogs, forums, Twitter search, and Facebook status updates all create a stream of searchable content that companies can use to get feedback and keep abreast of perception shifts. They can do this without creating accounts or participating.

The second benefit is engagement with customers. This can affect product cycles, help with PR and marketing, increase sales, help identify trends, decrease support costs and empower fans to help spread the word. Engagement also provides an answer to the question "Is anybody listening?"

A common perception of many of these social media outlets is that they will be a gigantic time drain on already strained resources. This can actually be true - truly listening and interacting with customers can and should take time. That is why it is really important to understand up front what a company's goals are and what resources they have to commit to the process. Everybody hates finding out that companies aren't truly involved; that they aren't really interested in putting in the effort, but are merely checking a box. Lack of authenticity leads to outrage and abandonment. Sites become ghost towns.

Just listening to customers is a great first step. It helps companies to understand how and where they might engage in the future. However, it is important to let people know that you are gathering feedback and it also very important to have a plan to address that feedback, even if that doesn't happen via social media channels. Customers will appreciate this and will be happy to know that someone is hearing them.

Comments

  1. John,

    I really enjoyed your post. The last sentence, “Customers will appreciate this and will be happy to know that someone is hearing them” got my mind remembering allllll of those really frustrating times, especially with larger “successful” corporations, trying to get through to customer service.

    It's really frustrating, and as a consumer, you'd like to think if you have valuable input that it will at least be considered. We all know that is not always true, and I think the companies that “don't have time” shouldn't even use social media. If you're not going to do it right, don't do it, because as you said, without the listening, responding and interacting, isn't their FB or Twitter just like the one way customer support that maddens us all…really just another dead-end facade of pretending to care about their consumer base?

  2. ….just one last thing…I think your point about how the interaction and responding does not necessarily have to be via social media is very important. It's the idea that the end goal isn't a direct message back, it's to know that the feedback is being acknowledged and addressed in SOME way. Great point, and something not a lot of people think about.

  3. John Maver says:

    Tyler,
    I think we have to start with the fact that most companies aren't listening. There are countless tweets directed at various brands that don't have any presence at all – take http://twitter.com/target, which isn't run by them at all. Search for tweets with @target in the name and you will see a large customer base that is trying to engage with no response. If Target had a Twitter account, and simply started off by listening, they might learn quite a lot about their customers in the process. There is value in that exercise for both sides.
    Yes, later on Target and its customers would get even more value out of actual interactions, but those interactions could be informed by several months of just listening.
    The end point of the my post agrees with you in principal about creating ghost towns – don't build something and abandon it. If your company creates a social media presence, then you should commit to sticking with it. Otherwise, what was a positive step, instead leads to general negative feelings.
    Thanks for the reply, Tyler. I really enjoyed your post and the interaction and by responding, I am also glad to know that you are listening. :)

  4. TyPutt says:

    John,

    I really enjoyed your post. The last sentence, “Customers will appreciate this and will be happy to know that someone is hearing them” got my mind remembering allllll of those really frustrating times, especially with larger “successful” corporations, trying to get through to customer service.

    It's really frustrating, and as a consumer, you'd like to think if you have valuable input that it will at least be considered. We all know that is not always true, and I think the companies that “don't have time” shouldn't even use social media. If you're not going to do it right, don't do it, because as you said, without the listening, responding and interacting, isn't their FB or Twitter just like the one way customer support that maddens us all…really just another dead-end facade of pretending to care about their consumer base?

  5. TyPutt says:

    ….just one last thing…I think your point about how the interaction and responding does not necessarily have to be via social media is very important. It's the idea that the end goal isn't a direct message back, it's to know that the feedback is being acknowledged and addressed in SOME way. Great point, and something not a lot of people think about.

  6. John Maver says:

    Tyler,

    I think we have to start with the fact that most companies aren't listening. There are countless tweets directed at various brands that don't have any presence at all – take http://twitter.com/target, which isn't run by them at all. Search for tweets with @target in the name and you will see a large customer base that is trying to engage with no response. If Target had a Twitter account, and simply started off by listening, they might learn quite a lot about their customers in the process. There is value in that exercise for both sides.

    Yes, later on Target and its customers would get even more value out of actual interactions, but those interactions could be informed by several months of just listening.

    The end point of the my post agrees with you in principal about creating ghost towns – don't build something and abandon it. If your company creates a social media presence, then you should commit to sticking with it. Otherwise, what was a positive step, instead leads to general negative feelings.

    Thanks for the reply, Tyler. I really enjoyed your post and the interaction and by responding, I am also glad to know that you are listening. :)

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