• January 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Fresh Meat, Social Media Style

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Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, January’s Chief Socializing Officer:

Now that the freshness and newness of social media have started to die down, I've decided that it's time for CRM to get involved. By coming late to the party, we get to be the "cool kids." (Actually, I got caught using social networks from work and needed a way to play it off as professional development for the magazine.)

I'm hoping that the discussions I'm having with the rest of the staff and management will bear electronic fruit very soon -- possibly by the time you read this. (Electronic fruit puts me in mind of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong Jr., but that's another story.)

Seriously, there's a revolution going on in business communications, and it's passing a lot of businesses by. This is because the revolt is happening on the customer side. Yes, your customers are revolting, but not in the Mrs.-Lovett's-meat-pies way you tend to think of them (relevant because of the Tim Burton film adaptation of Sweeney Todd, which opened around Christmas; see my May 2006 column for clarification, you Philistines). They are tired of wondering what's happening behind the corporate facade, tired of sitting mute while vendors push campaigns at them, tired of being told what they want and how much they should buy. Also, they want to make fun of you.

The public has turned to blogs, social networking, video sharing, and a number of other media to talk about consumer issues, but there's a common thread: They are merciless in their tearing down of obviously phony corporate images. Tell a half-truth, overpromote yourself, or even be corny, and there will be no shortage of user-generated content -- all of it laughing at you. Ignore obvious flaws in your product and the public will eat you alive -- sometimes in perpetuity. Just ask folks at Sony how much they enjoyed the "PS3: How You Killed Your Brand" video that's been getting crazy hits on YouTube for over a year.

And if you think it's groundless malice that drives the online efforts of customers -- or if you doubt that it's a real customer on the other end -- do a search for "Delta Flight 6499." You'll enjoy a video shot by a passenger on that flight, which sat for seven hours on the ground, during which time the passengers were neither fed nor allowed to leave the plane, all for an eventual flight of three hours' duration. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll never fly Delta again.

Is this a fundamental shift in the vendor/consumer relationship paradigm? No. Is it a natural progression that businesses should have seen coming since the first email was sent through the Intertubes? ZOMG, yes. Is it a tired writing technique to pose questions to myself just so I can answer them? Also yes. You'd think I was Donald Rumsfeld dueling the Washington press corps lions and trying not to get eaten.

(Oh, and yes, I realize there have been a lot of references to eating in this month's sermon. This is what happens when you write on an empty stomach.)

Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com.

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