A few weeks ago, I was speaking with the leader of a fairly large organization about the progress his team was making relative to branding the organization. He said this: “I’m trying to get more Twitter followers than our nearest competitor, but the numbers keep going up and down. How do I catch him?” My immediate response was, “stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing.”
It’s a pretty common misconception that the more followers you have, the more friends who like you, and more people who react to your messages, the more successful you’re going to be. Not so. In fact, I disown hundreds more people that attempt to follow me or our clients than those that we thank and accept. There are many reasons for people to use Twitter, Facebook, and other tools. Those that think of it as a popularity contest may well find themselves on the outside looking in.
For the sake of this posting, let’s leave personal use of social media out of the equation. In the business world, using social media involves some responsibility, if done properly. One of my biggest pet peeves about companies that use these tools is the one-sided narrative (often grammatically challenged) that takes place. Social media, when executed effectively, is a dialog, not a monolog.
So, what does that mean?
Let’s look at a company that does it the right way: Ford Motor Company.
Ford’s got a lot going on these days. The new Focus is making lots of headlines, and the electric Focus is certainly an alternative drivetrain halo vehicle. The new ads, featuring the Ford Taurus SHO and new 2013 Ford Fusion are slick. And tied into these vehicles and their marketing is a slew of clever social media messages. But, these messages have the backbone to support their verve. The company even has a social media website, dedicated to the entire manufacturer/client conversation. Ford Social is a portal to a wide array of media and much of the content is user generated.
Ford has a number of customer service agents who have the specific task of searching Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, message boards and even websites to seek out comments that may include both kudos and complaints. As these messages are found, the issue is assigned to a customer service rep who will then attempt to reach the individual and either thank them, or work to solve their problem. But wait – there’s more. Ford works to create a one-on-one dialog with clients within four hours of discovering the online individual message. Ford estimates that they address nearly 2,000 issues per week. While this is clearly an incremental component to the overall Ford customer service strategy, it clearly demonstrates the importance that a two-way process in social media can have. It means happy people. It means brand satisfaction. It also means sales. How cool is that?