Why customers, and not social media, are your key to brand success

Simon Mainwaring / Advertising / 9 years ago

Large and small brands are now embracing social media as a means to reach their customers but many still make easily avoidable mistakes. For instance, many persist in seeing these tools as an end in themselves rather than an extension of traditional media that has always been social in nature (whether it’s television, print or radio). Instead, they look at social media as a weapon with which to advance their brand’s interests or to damage control a crisis.

This could not be further from the truth. The tool that either promotes or comes to the defense of a brand in any given situation has and always will be the customer. Let’s look at a few recent examples for proof.

On the negative side we see the backlash against Nestle for deleting Facebook posts and YouTube films that exposed the deforestation caused by their palm oil harvesting. Or the worldwide backlash against BP when it tried to shut down Boycott BP Facebook accounts and mock twitter accounts critical of their handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the other side, we saw loyal Prius drivers come to the defense of the brand on the basis of its longstanding commitment to quality and the environment when Toyota was justifiably attacked for major safety concerns.

The true value of social media is its ability to deeply engage customers engendering good will, loyalty and positive word of mouth advertising. When you do that you create embedded ambassadors promoting the brand among their friends. It’s these customers that social media must serve so they can then promote the interests of the brand. It’s a subtle distinction but it’s important in terms of guiding where and how a brand and its advertising agency focus their energies. To that end here’s a great post by Valeria Maltoni (@conversationagent) that lays out 6 ways for brands to connect with their customers.

Do you agree that brands still struggle with this distinction? Or do you think social media tools are an answer in themselves?


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  1. Avatar davinabrewer says:

    Simon, IMO Social media (and it's tools) are certainly NOT an end unto them selves. I agree that many brand struggle with this, are afraid to turn over “control” and trust the customers, or to really connect with their audiences in a human way. Building brand loyalty takes time, commitment and .. a better brand. People will champion Toyota or Apple because they like those products, therefore the brand. But when someone mistakes “like” with loyalty and advocacy, you see backlash like in the Nestle situation. The brand tried to control and micromanage social media, with counterproductive results. Social media campaigns are/should be part of an integrated marketing and communications mix, not the endgame. FWIW.

  2. Simon very well said! I see too many companies and brands blinded by social. As Joseph Jaffe coins the new shiny object. I wrote Dorito's asking to advise them on Social Media because 1] They have 880K Fans on Facebook but the page is filled with Porn Links. 2] Almost no twitter presence. They do good with social off network on their own sites. So why have a fan page if its just going to get filled up with porn. Is that their stealth move to attract more 13-15 year olds to sell more Cool Ranch Doritos?

    I got a canned response from Tina. They have vendors taking care of them. Uhm OK!

    But doesn't having 880k Fans for a page you put up but did nothing to gain the fans or do anything with them show so much engagement potential that could be an extension of your brand? Its because people love Doritos that Social can be such an extension…they don't love them because they have a Fan Page!

  3. Thanks and I agree Davina. It's the patience often that brands need. I love what you said. Like is not loyalty. So true. Social media should be in the mix and patience and genuine interest in a relationship should be applied to all media. Thanks, Simon

  4. Thanks and wow. Doritos filled with porn. That's just – wrong. Though I'm not surprised you didn't get a response if they neglect their page anyway. It is weird the number of fans they have though sometimes brands structure offers and links in a way that force you to become a fan before you can participate. So maybe that's where they came from. Either way, they're really not leveraging facebook as they should. Thanks for the insights. Simon

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