Perspective, common sense break out at Social Media Breakfast

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By Francis Moran

I went to Ottawa’s Social Media Breakfast this morning and an intelligent session on strategic customer engagement broke out.

The above paragraph is the calmest of the leads that came to mind as I drove home from the breakfast; the others were far more excitable, reflecting the deep personal enthusiasm I felt after hearing a presentation on social media tools that put them in common-sense perspective. This is a sharp departure from past SMBOttawa speakers who have presented social media as the salvation of all things.

I knew right from the opening slide, “Your social media strategy won’t save you,” that this morning’s speaker, author, entrepreneur and self-confessed Twitter addict Tara Hunt (@missrogue), was going to be something quite different. What I didn’t know was that she was not only going to dynamite the worst of all the social-media-as-brave-new-world myths I have become so tired of hearing, but that she was also going to put the customer back at the centre of the whole value chain.

I live-tweeted a few of her better lines, as did others at the session, and you can see her whole presentation here. In a nutshell, however, Tara told us:

  • Social media is a tool, not a strategy.
  • Social media has not changed the world, it has not changed how we connect with other human beings, and it most certainly has not changed how we decide to buy, or not to buy, something.
  • The customer must be at the centre of every effective business strategy; if it doesn’t make the customer happy, don’t do it.
  • Social media has a role, potentially an incredibly potent role, to play in influencing each stage of the purchasing-decision process.
  • And she finished with very practical advice on exactly how social media tools can be deployed as part of a customer-centric campaign.

In one tidy presentation, then, Tara managed to hit on what seems to be my two most frequently raised topics these days:

  • Social media is not a brave new world; the fundamentals still apply.
  • Customer satisfaction is the only sustainable competitive differentiator.

Thanks for not drowning in the Kool Aid, Tara.

One fascinating side note: Early on in her presentation, Tara used Comcast as an example of a company that seems to be doing great outreach via Twitter but still letting down their customers and creating all kinds of lousy customer-service issues. Practically no sooner had she referenced Frank Eliason, who tweets as @comcastcares, than Frank himself was weighing in via Twitter, insisting that customer satisfaction was up 9% at the U.S. cable giant and offering to join a debate with Tara!


No Comments »
  • Erin Bury

    September 16, 2009 11:59 am

    This is a great post Francis! I feel exactly the same way – while I love social media tools I certainly know they’re not the be all and end all they’re made out to be. Would love to hear more about what you do – sounds like we have similar ideas :)


  • Natasha D'Souza

    September 16, 2009 12:48 pm

    I agree with you the basis of good business practice, marketing, sales etc.. has not been replaced by social media. Social media is just a bunch of online tools that enable people with similar interests to connect and engage with each other.

    These online relationships need to be developed, nurtured and in some cases converted into real life relationships as well. There have been a lot of successes from a B2C perspective in WOM and increasing brand awareness.

    Businesses are now experimenting with using these tools mainly Twitter for customer service.

    The challenge today is that the basic customer service model is broken and flawed. We all have horror stories of calling those wonderful 1-800 numbers and be transferred from department to department globally, with no resolution in sight. Now this model is being replaced by automated messages and live chat in some cases. The problem is that even if you get a real live person to take your call, they are not empowered to help you.

    So as Tara says it, social media is just a band aid but not the solution to the problem. Companies need to put the customer first and then use social media to engage and connect with them.

  • Glenn Schmelzle

    September 16, 2009 1:06 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with you, Tara didn’t parrot other SM pundits; instead, she told us what we needed to hear.

  • Maureen McCann

    September 16, 2009 2:06 pm

    Excellent post Francis. I share your enthusiastic response to Tara’s first comments about social media being a tool, not necessarily a strategy.
    In my line of work, many people want a quick fix – and they point to social media as the latest and greatest fix to what ails them.
    Social media can benefit business once we take online followers and connections and evolve them into mutually beneficial offline relationships that bring value to both parties.
    Much like traditional networking, social networking facilitates the introduction. What differentiates one is, as Natasha points out in her comment above, the willingness and effectiveness to “engage and connect”.

  • Sarah Allen

    September 17, 2009 9:23 am

    I’m sorry I missed this–sounds like a good dose of reality!

  • Tim Redpath

    September 17, 2009 4:27 pm

    Good post Francis.
    I thought it was good to hear from someone in the Social Media space actually say that Social Media is not the be all and end all of marketing. It’s just an element of any marketing communications campaign. Its value will depend on the market and the target audience.

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