Everyone is a customer

A couple of months ago, while I was ‘researching’ for http://iblogmustang.com I came across one of the most compelling examples of brand engagement in social media so far. I still use the case a lot as a great example of what brands should  be doing today. ‘Everyone is a customer’ was the title of a presentation that I created for the IAB Netcafé a while ago. What is it about?

Let me ask you a question. How many of you believe they will buy an Aston Martin anytime soon? Not many indeed… still, that is not the real importance and Aston understood that really well. The philosophy of Aston apparently is: everyone is a customer. Whether I’m buying an Aston or not, I’m a customer. Not only am I a customer, I’m a potential sales person – a potential evangelist for their brand. Something that Mike Stopforth experienced in the fall of last year exactly, when he got an Astin for a day after writing about it on his blog.

In my presentation ‘Everyone is a customer’ I wanted to show how getting into social media is not only about setting up a blog, that there are many (sometimes easy) ways to be part of that. I also wanted to point out that taking part in the conversation is not something that only the marketing or PR manager should do. This is we’re we can all step in, no exceptions.

Below are a few key highlights that I think cannot be repeated enough, things people should really start considering for their brands fast.

Read. Read. Read.
If you want to be involved in social media you got to read and if you can’t bring up the effort to do so, don’t even bother to start. In a conversation people listen to each other at the same level so why should that be any different when some new piece of technology is involved? It shouldn’t.

By reading you will also discover the influencers for your community in the most qualitative way. Now it’s not always possible to follow a complete large community this way and that’s why you can make use of tracking services that will find out for you. Remember though that tracking the conversation should not only be about getting a great graph for your next monthly review, this is meant to see where the action is so you can step in.

Comment. Where it makes sense.
Everyone can do this. You see a blogpost, a video on youtube, … online that holds wrong information (stay factual though) or that calls out for support: don’t wait until the marketing manager notices that, step in. Correct where you can, answer & help out if possible even if it’s only that you send it to the right person internally. That’s the beauty about a conversation, we can all take part. Never kill a blogpost though that’s bad towards your company & don’t start a fight, there’s nothing to win that way.

Track your comments.
There are a few tools out there like
http://co.mments.com and http://www.cocomment.com that can help you in that. Why is that so important? Because you can’t just comment and then leave it like that.

Listen… and then ask questions.
I was reading a presentation from the last WOMBAT conference that said: “Ask questions and LISTEN!” I believe they had it wrong, brands should first listen and then ask questions to come to even better understanding.

Write your own (company) blog.
There’s already more than enough you can find on how to set up a great blog, but there’s two key things I still want to highlight.

People write blogs, companies don’t: Think about finding the right people that show very good understanding of company values, inspire and are willing to engage with a large audience. Think of how 4.500 bloggers at Microsoft help at building a different perception of Microsoft as a company.

Think twice before you start: A blog needs personality, reality, continuity, … real added value basically. You need to be aware that you will be talking to many people who in the best case like to interact with you which will demand a lot of your time… but it’s worth every penny, believe me. A blog is not a new medium to push out press releases, nor will you have any results when you’re just repeating what others are saying, think of the great ‘echo chamber’ cartoon of Hugh to illustrate this.

echochamber.jpg

Join the meetings.
It’s a bit like the first point again, do you only want bloggers to come to meetings that you set up (which you obviously can do) or are you willing to join their meetings as well? I encourage you to take a look at meetings like Barcamp, Photowalking, Geek Dinners, … and tune in to the community in a very interesting way.

And whatever you do, remember this nice little piece of ethical advice that WOMMA has prepared. Whether you want to set up a blog, comment on a YouTube video, … this is a very good guideline to help you figure out what you can and can’t do – Honesty ROI

  • Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for
  • Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
  • Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity

Enjoy the conversation!

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