Monday, February 04, 2008

Social Media strategy

Graham's comments on my article on 'Building Loyalty the Southwest way ' on Customerthink pointed to the need for companies to have a well defined social media strategy as they venture out into the field to interact with their clients. Graham had a valid point as he was able to demonstrate the lack of engagement on Southwest's part as they used varied social media tools to engage with their customers.
The POST method demonstrated at the Forrester forum is interesting and approporiate to this discussion.
Using social media as an organisational strategy for listening to the customer is not enough. Two important aspects emerge here-
1.Engaging in a conversation with the customer.
2.Using the customer feedback to alter systems/strategies.
3.Using the social media tool to showcase this change in systems through incorporation of feedback.

Bob Thompson had an interesting point to add to the conversation-that of the need to try to use newer offerings of technology in an increasingly competitive market. After all, it is simply a way of staying a step ahead of your competitors.

Peoplecentricity or Customercentricity?

India recently witnessed the launch of the Tata Nano-the “people’s” car-The much awaited $2500 car for the common man. Tata Motors Limited is India's largest automobile company, with revenues of over $USD 7.2 billion.

A car which made it to the TIME most important cars of the century, however, rides on its “people-centricity”-touted as the people’s car…and the understanding that the common man in India wants to move from a two wheeler to a four wheeler…only affording it was a problem…the volume symbolized by the term ‘common man’ in a country like India is obviously a function of the population of the nation!!!! The near stampede , to get a glimpse of the car, that erupted in the Auto-expo where it was showcased is ample reflection of the enthusiasm of the “people”. All these “people” are obviously not in the potential customers category.

The world’s cheapest car, which may yield a transportation revolution, prides itself in being a people-centric endeavour. Some interesting observations-

1. A google search, uses the link to lead to an intrinsically social media driven website for the Tata Nano. Ranging from a Dream Car Configurator (create your dream car and spice it up with features list), options to share your first impression, Contests, Blogs, Forums-it’s all there.

2.Over 12,000 members are already part of the forum(the yet to be made available to the public car made its debut just a fortnight back)….is the volume an indicator of the “people” interested in the product rather than the “customers”? The volume does appear significant in such a duration.

3.The “ Online booking thread” highlighting an increasing demand for the car to be available online garnered 1000+ hits, resulted in a blog post from Subodh Marathe, Head of Marketing Services, Tata Motors…He says-”The option of online car sales is certainly worth exploring and your comments will help us design the right service.” Looks like they are doing the job of listening to the “people”.

The interesting issue here is-The word “people” seems to have more mass appeal than the word “customer”. All the people here cannot be considered to be akin to the word “customer” or can they? How different is the word “Customer” from the word “ People” ? Is Peoplethink a more important dimension than Customerthink ?