Today, Jay Baer, from Convince and Convert, posted that technology is ruining online community. And I have to agree that abuse of social media and other online technologies do little to build relationships with customers. I’m just not as willing to wax nostalgic, as Jay did in his piece (maybe wishing to create controversy that fuels engagement). His premise was that we used to do relationship marketing well — back in the “good old days” before the internet when people engaged in person.
Here’s a direct quote from his piece:
We can learn a lot from the past, when instead of humanizing our companies, we just deployed actual humans. Instead of listening software, we just listened. Instead of measuring influence, we just treated our customers well, and with respect.
I’m not sure what world Jay Baer grew up in — but it certainly wasn’t the same world I did. I have met some of the rudest, stupidest, most ignorant people working in front line positions. They existed before the Internet and will exist long after the Internet. It’s not the computers or the technology, it’s people who cause the problems with developing community whether they’re behind a computer or a storefront.
Making Relationship Marketing Work
That’s not to say relationship marketing doesn’t work or that brand communities are like unicorns. Relationship marketing can and does happen — both online and off. But, it doesn’t just happen. Building relationships with customers or prospects requires a strategic plan, adequate staffing, and effective employee management from hiring, through training, to monitoring.
Let’s look at an example — Disney World and DisneyLand. These parks hosted nearly 120 Million visitors in 2008, according to WikiAnswers. Despite these gargantuan numbers, Disney theme parks earn the reputation as the “happiest place on earth” through a combination of online and offline technologies, as well as superior customer service delivered by “cast members” who are hired, trained and compensated to ensure every visitor has a memorable experience. Relationship marketing at Disney begins before you book your trip and continues after you return home. Disney works hard to meet or exceed customer expectations regarding every aspect of your vacation.
Technology isn’t the enemy.
Relationship Marketing in Social Spaces
Jay makes the statement that we spend too much time on tabs and buttons and other technologies that get in the way of building one-on-one relationships with customers. He contends we’d rather hear banalities from our true friends than anything a brand has to say.
If you’re a brand that solves my problem I’m going to listen to YOU all day. Just make sure you’re providing value and I’ll not only listen, I’ll share you with my friends. Waste my time and you’re history!
Sure, you need to balance the technology with content — keep up the usability of your site and make your social properties intuitive, then send me all the great information you want and I’ll be your willing audience.
Maybe another example will help here. I am addicted to M&M’s. There’s just something about estrogen and chocolate that go so well together. I’m a fan on M&M’s Facebook page – one of almost 2 million. But, it’s not just the cool contests and give-aways that make me a fan or the personification of the different colors of M&M’s — Miss Green is particularly fetching — it’s their support of things I believe in, like breast cancer. And, they don’t take themselves too seriously or bore me with constant self-promotion (OK, you know who you are; constantly talking about yourself).
Would you walk into a party with a bullhorn and shout about yourself all night? Would you dominate the conversation with overbearing statements of how wonderful you are or the new thing you just did? No! Then STOP doing it in my newsfeed!!!!!!
See, it’s not technology that’s the problem; it’s boorish people.