Social media is not just changing how companies market themselves, but how they relate to their customers entirely. Customer relationship management is becoming a core part of how brands operate on the web, and companies such as Radian6 are offering some pretty neat (and expensive) tools for companies to track and connect with their customers online.
What is interesting about this is that customer relationships via social media are less about marketing promotions, and more about being human. Brand reputations are being established and nurtured by connecting with their customers one person at a time. Businesses are being created one smile at a time. This is how loyalty is built, and the new norm for branding.
Some companies are getting accolades for simply letting customers know that they will do right by them.
We have come to expect less. We expect a complicated phone tree when we call ‘customer service,’ so much so that we are amazed when a human picks up the phone. We expect to be told that when a product breaks, it is somehow our fault, and are made to feel guilty that we didn’t buy extra insurance for it.
So customers put up walls, and look for ways to take advantage – a sale, a coupon, a discount store. But this is changing – we are reverting back to the idea that all businesses are small businesses.
When a brand makes us smile, we are almost shocked into sharing it with the world. So we share that news… with friends, co-workers, and the world. More and more, this happens on social media.
So we are seeing this work both ways – brands reaching out to customers, customers reaching out to their communities. For both sides, this is an opportunity, to be more human.
Do we have relationships with brands? Yes and no. We have relationships with people who represent those brands. These people represent ideas, ideals even, that the brand adheres to. Ideals that we adhere to. For some brands, this is meaningless. “Customer service” is written on the wall, but employees are judged by how quickly they can get a customer off the phone. Efficiency is the goal.
But other brands do try to represent ideals. What is happening is that – because of social media – ALL brands are feeling the pressure to move in this direction. To do right by their customers and what they believe in.
Are you a brand? No. And yes. It’s just a word. Your ‘brand’ is what you choose it to mean, if anything at all. For some, it represents what they believe in, or the value they offer others. As our personal and professional lives are both thrust online, having a ‘brand’ is a way to separate the two. It is also a simple tool to communicate who we are, what we believe and the value we share.