Now that brands are forced to go social, they should find a way to collaborate with customers. Here's how.
Registering a complaint was once a private affair between the brand and the consumer. Not anymore. Internet not working; didn't like the food on board; waited too long in a queue; it all goes up on social sites.
Brands, like it or not, have gone social. Thanks to the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and forums, etc. Accepting this very fact not only gives you a reason to grow but also to grow profitably. Brands have always desired to be closer to their customers. Well, it does not get any closer than this. Brands should find their way to collaborate with customers.
Following are some scenarios where brands are using the social space:
1. Most brands are encouraging user participation in their brand communication. Pepsi's "Change the Game" and "Know You Neighborhood" campaigns by Nescafe are some of the few examples of the same.
2. Some brands use social space because of low budget to carry out activities throughout the year. Sometimes, some brands do it just because it has to be done.
3. Some brands use this space as an extension of their corporate presence to keep users updated and informed. For example, Indigo Airlines is using Facebook to update users with its services but encourages users to register their complaints on its brand website. Maruti Suzuki does not seem to answer service queries on its page.
4. Some brands are using the social space to divert customer inquiries to more human and less expensive tools. Vodafone India listens to queries on its Facebook page.
But some brands have gone beyond the above-mentioned ways to collaborate with their customers.
Starbucks is my favorite brand. The company has mastered the collaboration practice with its mystarbucksidea website. People can visit the site to drop their own ideas, which users could then vote on. The idea could be introducing a new drink, about the ambience, its service, etc. Ideas that get maximum votes get implemented.
Zappos, the brand known for its shoes, is famous for its commitment to customer service. It offers free shipping, free returns, and has 365 days as a return policy. Its Twitter page categorically mentions "Here to provide the Zappos.com Customer Service Experience!" Employees are encouraged to use their Twitter accounts for casual communication rather than promotions or marketing pitches, in an effort to humanize the company. How's that for a service brand? Word of mouth about such a model definitely played the role and social media is playing its part.
Dell Swarm in the U.K. is yet another interesting example. The concept is simple - "Buy In a Group & Save." Users can join Swarms every Tuesday and buy Dell products at discounts because of collective buying. The concept brings individuals to one group (which may not even know each other) and passes on the benefits to users.
Collaborating with users in a social space can help brands in the following ways:
1. Innovate: Constant interaction can lead to new product ideas based on latent or new customer needs.
2. Improved product/service: Interaction can be used to remove bottleneck in the product or services offered by the brands. It may help the brand to customize the product to the specific needs of the customer or close the gap for competitors to jump in.
Jumping on the social bandwagon is good for brands especially for service brands where how you do it is more important than what you do. The sooner you do it, the better it is. The social space not only helps brands with process improvement but with user participation in the improvement process.
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Maninder Pal Singh has more than 6 years of Digital Media Experience with expertise in areas viz Display, SEM, Mobile, Social Influence Marketing and Web Analytics. He has worked with leading media groups like GroupM and Lintas Initiative Media. He has successfully delivered both Brand and Performance marketing initiatives and digital initiatives for brands like Maruti Suzuki, P&G, Nokia, Pernod Ricard, Castrol, Expedia, Perfetti Van Melle, Hero Honda and Yamaha among others. An ardent blogger and an amateur photographer, Maninder also teaches Digital Marketing at B-schools.
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