In the past it has been difficult to have meaningful customer conversations, however now with the advent of social media companies have the opportunity to listen to customer feedback. Before mainstream social media, consumers provided feedback to companies but typically did not receive resolutions to their problems and concerns. Alas as Becky Carroll, blogger and founder of Petra Consulting Group, describes it the one-way communication model, the “corporate black hole,” was ever so prevalent before social media. Public relations is about building and maintaining relationships, if there is no two-way communication PR practitioners are not fulfilling this necessity.
Social media tools are continually changing, adapting and growing all the while allowing companies to converse with its consumers. Becky Carroll says in her post, “In Social Media, Collaboration is King” that companies must go “beyond just listening to customer feedback,” instead companies need to interact with customers, whether it is “thanking them for the Tweets” about company or “running quick contests to get more fans or followers.”
One important concept is that companies need to take action on consumer feedback. If people continually complain and no change occurs, the consumer will develop a negative perception of the company. In “Managing Customer Relationships” by Don Pepper and Martha Rogers, they say that, “the goal of every enterprise, once you strip away all the activities that keep everyone busy every day, is simply to get, keep and grow customers.” This is where PR practitioners come in handy, it is our job to build and maintain those relationships. Social media is not a campaign in itself, it is a tool to help develop and continue relationship with the company’s publics.
As former GE CEO Jack Welch said about social media, “we have only two sources of competitive advantage: one– the ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition, and two– the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition.” Social media allows for two-way communication, but still some companies treat it is a platform to bombard you with information. For example, Amazon’s twitter is fundamentally flawed. Although Amazon is a huge internet pioneer it uses a ‘Twitter bot’ to publish tweets from its blog. This is why Amazon only has a little more than 8,900 followers but more than 250,000 mentions. The higher number of mentions shows that people want to interact with Amazon, but they do not want their social media accounts to be cluttered with something of little or no value.
By allowing consumers to collaborate with companies via social media, companies and consumers will both ultimately benefit. Consumers will bring new perspectives and ideas from everything to what they like to future endeavors they hope to see. Brian Solis, PR blogger for PR 2.0, says that, “conversations don’t mean much without empathy, action, or resolution. In social media, collaboration is king.”
As PR practitioners it is our job to help companies understand and carry-out two-way communication with publics. PR practitioners must remember to not bore the company’s publics with shallow information, but rather enlist the consumer to be part of the organization.
I think that PR should be an open two-way process. Our goal is not merely to push out content and score media coverage but to have a dialogue with publics. If publics do not trust us, then there is no way we can influence or even change their attitudes and behaviors.
Is there a company that you know of that enlists two-way communication on social media? If so, what is it? Do you think companies are scared to have two-way communication because some of the feedback may be negative? How can we as PR practitioners relay the importance of social media to companies that refuse to adopt it?