The successful implementation of social media requires a fundamental shift in the way professional corporate communicators approach their customers. Historically, marketing and public relations professionals have described their customers in the abstract, referring to them generically as “markets,” “buyers,” or “consumers,” rather than as living beings. As a result, customers were considered entities to conquer, as proved by the war analogies communicators used to describe how they orchestrated campaigns and launched initiatives in a continuous effort to position, target, and capture them.
Such vocabulary made sense when corporate communications endeavors consisted of simple, one-way transmissions. But ever since customers began interacting with online content by leaving comments on blogs, recording voicemails for podcasters, and responding to online videos with videos of their own, they ceased being militants to conquer. And when they started identifying themselves as “friends,” “fans,” and “followers” through services such as Facebook and Twitter, they demanded more respectful treatment.
Before you allow your marketing or PR folks to start using social media channels, have them rethink their approach. I’ve found that a simple exercise in word substitution helps kick-start the transformation. For example, by substituting the word “friend” for the word “customer,” the differences become clear.
- Do you target your friends?
- Do you capture your friends?
- Do you position your friends?
- Do you plan campaigns against your friends?
- Do you launch initiatives at your friends?
- Do you blast your friends with emails?
- Do you manage the expectations of, enhance your reputation with, or craft your messaging with your friends?
Thinking about customers as “friends,” “followers,” or “fans” is the “social” part of social media.
Who does your company communicate with? Enemy combatants or friends?
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