There is a clear ROI case for improving customer experience with social media
When UK-based interior furnishings company Habitat started using the online microblogging site Twitter earlier this year, executives at the company may well have applauded themselves for boldly embracing a new channel for marketing the company’s products to design-conscious consumers.
Members of the 14 million-strong Twitter community soon set them straight – in scathing messages of 140 characters or less. Habitat had committed a huge gaffe, by using ‘hashtags’ (the keywords used on Twitter messages to organise the huge torrent of updates into trends and subjects) to force links to its own catalogues and special offers into popular, but totally unrelated, conversations.
These included keywords relating to Apple’s iPhone and, more seriously, the Iran elections; so Twitter users searching for conversations about Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, for example, were blasted with messages about Habitat’s “totally desirable” spring collection.
The backlash was swift, harsh and widespread, forcing Habitat executives to issue a formal apology. “This could not have led to anything other than a consumer backlash,” said Alex Burmaster, communications director at research firm Nielsen Online, in an interview with the BBC. “The bottom line is that it was a serious misjudgement. [Habitat has] used a political and human situation that many people are concerned about to market their products and services, and that is not right.”
Habitat’s failure to grasp the fundamentals of Twitter ‘netiquette’, however, illustrates the struggle that many companies experience when it comes to deciding on how to use social networking technologies as a way to engage with customers and why even more are holding back.
The fact is that vast legions of customers and prospects now use social networking sites to share their experiences of products, services and brands. While it’s tempting to view that audience as an alluring target for sales and marketing efforts, for now the smart money is spent not on trying to boost revenues, but on boosting customer experience, according to Natalie Petouhoff, an analyst with IT market research company Forrester Research.
“When companies blatantly ignore product or service issues, customers can now use the Internet as a medium
to broadcast, very publicly, their frustration to millions,” she says. Online conversations that risk damaging brand reputations have radically switched the balance of power from corporations to customers, and, whether brand managers like it or not, unmonitored conversations that could impact their business are taking place right now. read more >>