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

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?