Social Networking is the “new” Word-of-Mouth

Articles
September 03, 2009

Social Networking is the “new” Word-of-Mouth

Social Networking is the “new” Word-of-Mouth

Check out the video on YouTube titled, “United Breaks Guitars". Well if you haven’t yet, you are in a sure minority. Posted on July, 11th 2009 and currently approaching 5.4 MILLION views, this video musically expresses one United Airlines passenger’s bad customer service experience.  
 
Not only has the original video reached over five million views, but in just under two months, the video has also drawn responses - in various languages - from about 22,000 potential United customers. If you have heard others talking about Social Media - Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Digg, Blogging etc. - and thought it was just a fad and would pass, well consider yourself wrong. Word-of-Mouth has gone VIRAL!  
 
In a talk titled, “If the Twittering, Blogging, Consumer is in Control, What’s Next?” at the just wrapped 2009 GMA Executive Conference in Colorado Springs, Phil Lempert, and John Lewis, President and CEO of Nielsen Consumer North America, Colorado, took a look at social media, specifically consumer generated media and how it can affect the CPG and retail food  businesses.
 
With users in control, social networks, member communities, and blogs are a huge media platform. Consumers create, share and talk persuasively both positive and negative - about their everyday customer service, shopping, and product experiences. 
 
These ‘social networkers’ can be anyone from the “new mom” talkin’ diaper brands to New York Times news reporters posting up to the second (literally) on the latest breaking news. And what’s most important is that they are constantly active, engaging and capturing quality consumers; creating real connections with followers and fans. And guess what? This builds TRUST!
 
So how do you engage, earn respect, and use this viral media outlet, now a FUNDAMENTAL part of the “Buyers Funnel”, to your advantage?
 
The first and most important step is to listen. Listen first. Sell second. You may need to re-teach yourself to listen because we often only listen to what we want to hear, not what was actually said. Listening to what your customers are saying with an unbiased ear is essential. Fact: Brand credibility is nonnegotiable. What’s said on the various social media outlets is broadcasted to the world.  
 
The next steps in using Social media to your advantage are through active participation and engagement. Listen, and then feedback. Brand credibility is based on trust, authenticity, transparency, affirmation and accountability, humility, and responsiveness.  Some of the various platforms for building your media while increasing and earning greater brand credibility are as follows. 
 
Make sure your company is up to date on email, phone, and web feedback. Are your customer service employees synced with new consumer expectations of expression? This involves proactive ways in which to reach consumers through social networking sites such as Twitter and FaceBook. Use these outlets to connect directly to customers for things like promoting new products or answering product or brand queries. Do some googling. Have customers already set up blogs about your products or stores? These spaces not only allow customers to assist and chat with other customers but also encourage shoppers to associate your store with certain products. Don’t forget to look to these spaces for feedback regarding your brand, store, or product as well.  
 
There is a new media in town, and it is called Consumer Generated Media (CGM) and it is all about high-impact media generated by consumers, typically informed by relevant product or service experience. It lasts forever and is archived online for ready access by other consumers as well as key marketplace influencers including supermarket buyers, media, and analysts. And unlike previously “paid media,” you are not in control.