Social media is (was) supposed to be the silver bullet for better and interactive contacts between customers and companies, between citizens and public officials, between activists and stakeholder groups.
But is it? Does it really work? Or do I simply ask for too much, too quick? And why are we as consumers accepting this state of affairs?
I am not speaking about the number of likes on a Facebook page, pins on Pinterest, retweets on Twitter. I’m speaking about real constructive interaction between a customer and a company. Is social media becoming another hype that “has to be embraced” and then turns into yet another failed communications tool? One reads in the papers about how someone tweeted and got a job, someone else got a new ticket, a third won against a company and got a failed product replaced. But is this all? It feels like having 200 TV stations while only watching 2.
In a sense it reminds me about when e-mail and e-commerce came (yes, my dears there was a time before “e” and I remember that time) and how we whom already worked with both advised corporate strategists and communicators “Answer e-mails within 24 hours during the working week and 48 hours in the weekend. And put in place an automatic answer to the sender and say this so the customer knows what to expect.” These advice seems to be gone with the wind. I don’t expect instant contact but I do expect contact within the above given time frames. But after implementing social media (mostly I get the feeling this means a Facebook page and a corporate Twitter account) companies seems to feel that they are relieved from this. Because: “We have social media, so we remain in contact with our customers.” But it is still far too often the same one way communication and no real contact with us as customers. Sometimes I feel that the so often beleaguered public sector actually is better and more responsive than private companies when it comes to customer contacts. Even if customers is not the correct term when it comes to the public sector but I trust you understand what I mean.
And to answer my third question:
No, I don’t think I ask for too much too quick. On the contrary, I feel we as consumers are quite wonderful in our patience.
Even if the “I have always had Internet” generation is just coming of age, PC’s and various forms of digital interconnectivity have been around so long they are an inherent part of our every day lives, professional and private, so having grasped how to work with on-line tools (which after all is what Social media are) should be a normal as pen and paper. As should developing services that actually use the opportunities this brings rather than just automating old badly working paper based processes. But from what I see, it doesn’t seem to happen.
But I have no answer to my fourth question – do you?
And what can we as corporate communicators do to change the situation and to turn our organisations into leaders in the area?