Monday, 15 March 2010

Customer Capital: From Outflow to Inflow

When pitching social media to managers you get a myriad of reasons why it may not be the best idea, but one of the loudest challenges usually has to do with putting the brand out there to be criticised by the public. Well, guess what...whether you're there or not, the customers will criticise and bash the brand. The fact is, they're not waiting on you to give them permission to do it. They are going to do it and more importantly, they now have the tools with which to do it.

But the interactions which social media provide, if they are indeed interactions and not calculations (counting how many fans and followers you may have) can help a company to counter these negative comments and even learn beforehand what's on the mind of the customer - the good and the bad. It's a bit arrogant of companies to think or believe that their brand is so fantastic that it should be immune somehow from negative comments or criticism. The age of the marketing campaign - that one way street of communication where the marketer ruled the roost and called the shots - is basically over. I think while we stood tall and beat our chests because we controlled the outflow of communication, and it was our way or no way, really many companies are scared of the inflows. Are we really content with passive audiences? Are we really that scared of a level playing field and the active consumer who knows what he/she wants and know what he/she likes and is not afraid to say it openly?

To merely think of the inflows in negative terms is shooting onself in the foot before even starting the race. The richness of social media interactions cannot be denied. So many times, customers have given me great suggestions and ideas for the "what next?" and the "what could be better". I want some creative assistance and they are there, always willing to lend their own opinions and suggestions. The creative customer capital inflows have to be considered as much as the management of the negative feedback, which in themselves are ALSO rich and useful for they can now shape the way forward.

This fear of social media is not going to go away very soon for a lot of organisations, but the new media are here, not going away any time soon, and being used by millions of people every day. I would prefer to be ready and in the trenches to deal with the feeback, and learn from it, than standing on the top looking down, without a clue how to get in on the action.

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