The Biggest Mistake Companies Make When Engaging Their Fans Via Social Media

by Mack Collier

A few years ago I was attending a conference, and the keynote was the CMO for an extremely large brand talking about how they used social media.  At one point he said ‘What we love about social media is that it gives us a way to help our customers tell our story’.  There was much smiling and head nodding in the audience, but my jaw was on the ground.

Sadly, many companies are starting to realize the ‘power’ of connecting with their fans, especially via social media tools.  And like this CMO, they are attracted to connecting with their fans because they view their fans as an exciting new promotional channel to spread that brand’s message.

Sigh.

Let me clear the air for you: The greatest value of your fans is not as a promotional channel, but as a feedback channel.

This seems counter-intuitive, after all aren’t your fans actively promoting your brand already?  And aren’t we all on the same page that a positive endorsement from a customer about a brand is more credible than an advertisement from that same brand?

Yes and yes.  Your fans are actively promoting your brand, and doing a better job of it than you ever will.  Why?  Because your fans have direct contact with your current and potential customers.

Your fans are the passionate customers that are in the grocery store isles and the department stores, encouraging other customers to try your brand’s products.  But they are also there to hear feedback from those customers.

For example, let’s say your brand is Tide.  One of your fans is in Target and sees a customer looking at different washing detergents.  She tells the customer that they should try Tide.  Think about what the customer’s response might be:

1 – ‘Well I’ve tried Tide before, and I don’t really like it as much as Joy because…’

2 – ‘Hmmm….well the water where I live is extremely hard, would that affect it?’

3 – ‘Yes I’ve tried Tide and I love how it…’

As soon as your fan engages with the customer, they are getting incredibly valuable feedback from that customer not only about the customer herself, but about the product and how she uses it.

Think about if you had an army of just 100 fans that you worked with, and each one had say 50 encounters like this a month with other customers.  That’s 5,000 opportunities per month to get valuable feedback from current and potential customers of your brand.

The best part?  Your fans will still be promoting your product to other customers, but they’ll also be collecting incredibly valuable feedback from other customers.  Once you begin collecting that feedback regularly, you can begin to spot trends in the feedback you receive, and then make changes to your marketing as a result.  Which makes your marketing more effectively and lowers marketing costs.

Now ideally, you should have a formal program in place to stay connected with your brand’s fans, and you can coach them on how to better collect feedback from customers they encounter.  And Think Like a Rock Star goes into exactly how to do all of this.  But if you don’t have a program or Brand Ambassador effort in place, there’s several quick and easy ways to collect feedback from your customers.

One example is by checking Amazon reviews.  You can do this for your product, as well as for your competitors.  I actually did this for my book.

Think Like a Rock Star isn’t technically a social media book.  I actually walk readers through how to engage with their fans in both an online and offline setting, but a good portion of the book does deal with connecting with your fans via social media tools.  And since I knew a lot of people would compare it to other social media marketing books, I carefully studied the Amazon reviews of the most popular social media marketing books.

But I wasn’t focused on the 4 and 5-star reviews.  I was far more interested in the 1 and 2-star reviews, in other words, what were people complaining about with these books?  After checking reviews for a few dozen books, the most comment complaint I found was something along the lines of ‘The author spends a lot of time telling us ‘why’ to use social media, but not a lot of time telling us ‘how’ to do what he suggests’.  I saw this same complaint over and over again.  So as a result of this feedback, I decided to alter the proposed flow of my book and incorporate detailed how-tos into every chapter.  Basically I made myself commit to giving a ‘how-to’ for every ‘why-to’.  And while this created a lot of headaches while writing the book, it kept me honest and it forced me to carefully explain to readers HOW to do everything I was talking about.  The end result is that the book will be much more valuable to readers.

That’s just a simple example, but you hopefully get the idea.  If you are a brand that’s getting excited about connecting with your fans to help them ‘tell your story’, don’t forget that the value they can give you as a feedback channel can be far greater.

At the end of the day, your fans are far too special to simply hold a megaphone for you.

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