Social media can help companies to observe user behaviour more closely. The data gathered should however not be confined to the marketing department; it should be used throughout the company to improve the overall consumer experience.

Social Media “Help a Product to Earn Relevance”

Interview with Brian Solis, Principal at Altimeter Group, on the sidelines of theMicrostrategy World 2012 conference, held on 9 - 12 July in Amsterdam.

L'Atelier: What are the areas for improvement in the use of social networks for
marketing that companies need to work on?

Brian Solis: Companies use social media in a positive way to assess consumer engagement.
The challenge lies in the fact that the temptation is high to automate the relationship, simply
pushing out content and pretending that it’s a human being that is responding, whereas in
fact it’s a computer which is generating the communication. But there’s no automated way
to measure real consumer engagement. It’s my view that companies shouldn’t think of
marketing in terms of a department or a function, but rather as an extension of the customer
experience. What do you want people to say about your brand? What are they going to find
in your products? Is this part of his or her own identity? This is an area where Steve Jobs was
a brilliant architect when it comes to improving the consumer experience. Building a good
product isn’t enough; you have to fight to earn relevance.

L'Atelier: And should companies bank on the social channel to do that?

Brian Solis: Social media can give you insight into what relevance means. In order to do
that, you have to define relevance for each company, because just being on social media and
having conversations on social media is not sufficient. But this is what most companies do.
And they get so involved in this that they miss opportunities for converting their customers’
engagement – and this is not just about marketing but also services, human resources,
research and development – into a general process of co-creation. This can help the whole
company only if the company appreciates the potential. So it’s starting off on the wrong foot
to say that social media are a tool that should be used just to serve marketing.

L'Atelier: So what should companies do to ensure that social media help their marketing efforts but without becoming entirely dependent on them?

Brian Solis: At the present time companies are working too much in silos. Marketing is one
of these silos and each department works independently of the others. When customer service
or the sales department wants to communicate on social media, it does so without reference to the marketing department. I’ve seen the chaos generated in many companies when they work this way, because the various units have no strategy in common. But the customer doesn’t see the silos. He or she thinks of the company as a single brand. Five to ten years down the line, Marketing people should have taken over, not only pushing out and gathering in information, but actually leading the company’s transformation. Marketing people will bring to the company knowledge coming from observing consumer behaviour and empathy. They will be the architects of the customer experience and will share their overall vision with the whole of the company.