Earlier this week, Mack Collier read big business the riot act for missing the boat with social media. The key benefit of social media, he argued, is not that it provides us with yet another channel for messaging, promotion and sales, but that it gives us a way to bring the voice of the customer into the corporation. In other words, we might feel the urge to talk but we have much more to gain by listening.
I agree with Mack, but think that there's more to the story.
Listening to the community is vital. So is taking what you learn and using it to change the way you do business. And all of this certainly plays into the shift of power from the marketer to the consumer. But more often than not listening still benefits the company far more than it benefits the individuals who do the talking. We're still taking; we're just taking something else.
Sure, some people may simply want the opportunity to be heard and, if a company uses consumer feedback to improve its products or services, of course there is some benefit delivered back to the people. But I believe that brands need to deliver more value than that -- and nowhere is this more evident than in social media circles where consumer control is most prevalent.
For me, the bottom line is this -- in order to succeed in social media, marketers need to give more than they get. In the new world of marketing, where we can tap into the collective knowledge of consumer communities, an open ear isn't enough. We need to be prepared to deliver at least as much value as we extract -- and more likely deliver more value than we extract to justify the time, attention and input that we hope consumers will give us in return. People have plenty of other places to devote their attention -- and the very fact that they've made the shift from consumer to creator, from passive audience to active participant means that they've already chosen a different path than the one mass media and mass marketers might have prescribed. If we want to regain their attention and we intend to do it on their turf, we'd better make it worth their while.
This is a difficult concept for many marketers because it runs counter to the way our world has always worked. The consumer pays more for our product than it costs us to make it. We ask consumers to willingly offer up their time and attention -- to watch our ads, click our banners, surf our sites -- and repay them with little more than "the chance to buy our stuff." I mean come on -- we hold focus groups in which we garner insights that can materially change our go-to-market strategies and the participants who volunteer their opinions and intellectual capital get a token payment and some cookies.
I think the people who keep us in business deserve more than cookies. What are your thoughts?