Social media rules of engagement

Back in the old days at GE (pre GFC) we were taught that all business ideas or problems should be considered from the “outside-in” or from the customer’s point of view. This was part of their Six Sigma approach using Voice of the Customer principles.  Now admittedly that was a few years ago, but the principle remains sound for business in general and also in relation to social media.

There are many voices articulating rules for social media engagement – from simple  ideas like ‘treat people the way you would a friend’ or ‘treat people the way you’d like to be treated’ to long lists of tips.

One thing that many of these approaches have in common is looking at things from the business perspective rather than that of the customer.

For example, hypothetically: I might treat friends (as I would like to be treated) by calling them a boofhead & punching them in the shoulder. Such interaction might simply annoy a customer who is a suburban mother of two.  Instead it might be better to find out how that customer actually wants to be dealt with.

Indeed it might even be worth understanding if there are different kinds of customers who’d like to be treated in different ways.  Perhaps football-watching beer-drinking men might like to be called a boofhead & punched in the shoulder?

One thing that social computing has enabled is for micro-segments to emerge.  Once we treated customers as a large block, dissected them up into fairly big chunks and called that segmentation.  But now we have the ability to mine data to a degree unimagined in the past. And this capability lets us understand the groups within our customers.  Data mining is a key capability powered by web 2.0 and social computing.  We are now in a position to obtain deep insights into our customers, their needs and their behaviours.

We have also seen classic examples of companies totally misreading their customer audience.  Motrin Moms was an amazing lesson for onlookers late in 2008.  Within hours really angry mothers online via Twitter had mobilised against the brand and Motrin backpedalled furiously to quiet the issue.  Jeremiah Owayang gave a good summary of this situation with Motrin Moms (as they came to be called).  He also offers some insights into testing and planning these kind of campaigns.

Social computing has brought about the democratisation of the means of communication.  In the past customers, like the Motrin Moms, did not have access to the means of protest.  But now within hours they can slam down a carefully planned and executed media strategy.  The sooner businesses come to terms with this democratisation of communication and the related shift from monologue to dialogue the easier life will be for all of us.

Author: Kate Carruthers

Kate Carruthers is Chief Data & Insights Officer for UNSW Sydney, and is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. She is certified in information security and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies terrorism and security. Kate has extensive experience in senior roles in ICT, marketing, data and digital; and is a member of the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre Advisory Board. Kate is currently working at the intersection of data analytics, AI, ML, privacy, cyber security, and data protection.

One thought

  1. Great point Kate, social media is a great way for viral marketing provided it is used the right way to benefit everyone and not abused with a me me attitude.

    The more popular twitter becomes here in Australia, the more people will continue to express their experiences both good and bad in an online way. Good press – everyone wins. Bad press – say goodnight to your reputation


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