Recently I saw an example of a business using social media to provide outstanding customer service and enhance its brand image. The Dutch airline KLM presented gifts to customers who had mentioned KLM to the world via Twitter prior to boarding the flight. These customers seemed pleasantly surprised that KLM airport staff not only knew they had tweeted, but also knew their interests and the type of gift they would like. They knew all of this because they had a team of people monitoring social network feeds for mentions of their brand. They then looked up the social network profile of these brand advocates to establish their interests, purchased the gifts and presented them to the customer within hours of the tweet or facebook post. The fitness enthusiast was more than pleased to receive a GPS heart rate monitor watch, and the music aficionado an iTunes voucher. One would assume this then lead to more tweets about the “KLM Surprise”, and a very happy customer who would most likely pick KLM as their airline of choice in the future. So, for KLM, mission accomplished. A happy, loyal customer and free positive PR for the brand.
I watched the video of this exchange in amazement. Initially I thought it was great, but then I began to doubt whether I would be so happy that an organisation was able to find out so much about me in the space of a few hours. It’s great to get a free gift every now and again but am I comfortable that an organisation can find out so much about me in order for me to get it?
Privacy on social networking sites has garnered a lot of media attention in terms of the sharing of user’s personal data. This has resulted in sites improving privacy options, allowing users to choose what other users can see and restricting access to certain aspects of their personal profile. However, the process isn’t straightforward and can be extremely lengthy, as a user goes through every feature of the site setting permissions against them. Many users probably don’t bother. You could then argue that if they haven’t set their privacy options they are consenting to the data being used. And does it really matter if as a result they are receiving more relevant ads when they access the social network pages, and, in the case of KLM, free gifts based on their interests and hobbies? Also if users are engaging with social networks - posting about brands, liking products - it stands to reason that they would be happy to, and may even expect to receive something from the organisation to reward this behaviour.
I am sceptical. I consider myself to be a passive social network user. I use it to fill the spare minutes I have in the day when I am bored and feel I have to be doing something. So, walking to town at lunch time, sitting on a train, having a coffee, I get out my mobile phone, browse the internet and log-in to facebook. I probably log in several times a day, but all I do is read what my friends are doing. I don’t update my own status and I don’t comment on theirs. I just read how my friends are eating their breakfast, feeling tired, looking forward to the weekend, and I think how bored they must be to be writing about it. But then I’m reading it. And that’s where I can recognise the power of social networks.
Even if you are a low engager, as I consider myself to be, you can still be influenced by the content on there. If any of my friends comment on music they are listening to, what they are eating, things they ‘like’, these things will be in my mind. I might search for the track to see if it’s something I would also enjoy, I might be tempted to buy the bar of chocolate they mentioned, and I might watch the TV show they “liked” if there is nothing on when I get home. So, for organisations social networks are valuable tools for getting their brands talked about, getting in the front of mind of the consumer. A recent report claimed social networking accounted for nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online globally, ranking as the most engaging online activity worldwide. These networks could be the most important consumer database at an organisation’s disposal, providing valuable consumer insight to enable refined targeting and strengthen the relationship with their consumers to build brand loyalty. It is therefore important that organisations get it right. If the users of these networks accept its intrusive nature, and feel their experience is enhanced through the use of social networks as a promotional tool, it can work in an organisation’s favour. But there is a fine balance to be struck between engaging and offending, and any business entering into this space should do so with care.
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