Twitter, the microbloging service, has unleashed a new era of consumer to consumer communication. Firms must react to the new media and they must be willing to engage their clientele within the new media realms. Gone are the days when marketers could broadcast their message from atop the mighty soapbox or post their brand image 100ft in the air on some remote billboard. Sure the old media still exist, but the new media have opened up a new paradigm. Marketers must engage their customers as individuals among equals. This is not a bad thing. I’ve often viewed marketing as a firm’s relationship with its customers. This gives marketers and firms the chance to be a part of the conversation, and therefore, provide better offerings.
Web 2.0, the Web that consists of new media such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook Twitter et al., has been around for a few years now. Yet its power is little understood by many firms, large and small. If there was one episode which changed the way many firms look at the new media it would be the “Motrin Moms” episode. Last fall, Motrin launched an advertising campaign that some mothers did not find amusing. Mothers were insulted that Johnson & Johnson would suggest that their sons and daughters were too much of a hassle. Outraged mothers quickly took to the Twittershere while J&J yawned. The effect of the Motrin Moms spread like wildfire. The Motrin Moms community grew to be thousands strong. In fact, angry mothers can still be seen on YouTube. J&J’s aloofness led to lost sales and lost reputation. Eventually, they did respond to the mothers’ concerns via the new media, but it was too late. Also, these things never go away. The angry moms will be there forever for everyone to see on YouTube.
The lesson to this story is that firms must engage their customers on a personal level. Motrin thought it could dictate the conversation only to end up with what every man fears most: Angry Moms! Still, firms should be looking for value in the social media sphere. Engaging customers on a personal level and being a part of the conversation can bring tremendous value. Nowadays, Dell Computers uses the new media better than anyone else (well, at least since the Jeff Jarvis incident). Bob Pearson, VP of communities and conversations for Dell recently intimated, “It’s always worth talking directly with your customers. It’s always worth listening to them. It’s the wisdom of crowds.” Some of Dell’s most recent models have fingerprint readers and backlit keyboards; ideas that came directly from customers.
Yes, Web 2.0 and the social media are new phenomena, but it’s time many firms get ahead of the curve. Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines and Ford Motors are doing everything they can to converse with their customers via the new media. Other firms still remain far too conservative and rely too much on the old media. They do so at their peril.
Disclosure: "No Positions"