Social Media Is More Than Just A Tool to Boost Egos

When you begin to grasp how powerful social media can be, you become irreversibly hooked.

I’m not talking about personal accounts where users post every iota of their mundane lives, hoping to fetch a few likes and thus validate their existences. Yes, Instagram can be an interesting platform to build your ego, and these days, many measure their self-worth by the number of followers they’ve amassed.

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The focus of this piece, however, is on large corporate accounts, those that represent the face of a company or institution. Previously, when you wanted to communicate with a brand, you had to either send them postal mail or, thanks to the major advances of the digital world over the past decade and half, electronic mail.

Either way, your letter went to a black hole, and there was little guarantee you’d receive a reply. Assuming you miraculously did but the response came up short, the back and forth could drag on for months, and the mere thought of it may have prevented you from initiating any type of correspondence to begin with.

Today, a shout-out to your favorite brand is as simple and painless as logging onto Twitter and composing a brief message. Tweets are not private and post to your wall for the entire Twitterdom to see, though only your followers get wind of them via their feeds. Ultimately, you can rest assured that someone on the other end will certainly receive the message, and because Twitter or Instagram are subject to the eye of public scrutiny, that someone is obliged to respond.

Let me give you a small example. Two days ago, I bought and immensely enjoyed a pint of ice cream crafted by Dove Chocolate. Utterly smitten with the three layers of chocolate it boasted, I felt compelled to congratulate Dove on their delicious creation.

I launched Twitter on my smartphone, searched for @Dove_Chocolate, and after tweeting my message and officially following their handle, I got suggestions to follow other similar accounts, including @Yoplait. As an avid consumer of Yoplait yogurts, I clicked on their handle to be rerouted to their account, and my eyes fell on this latest tweet:

Curious as to what they could possibly mean by this statement, I clicked on the Tweet to uncover the entire thread between @Tink801 and @Yoplait:

Pretty blunt customer, right? Well, justifiably she’s concerned that a yogurt product marked 'Strawberry' doesn’t feature the namesake fruit in its list of ingredients. In a display of bravado, she stuck it to Yoplait.

No doubt the social media officer moderating the account grew nervous at such a probe and responded in the most politically correct manner as possible, lumping the real fruit strawberry into the vague moniker “natural flavor” F&B companies throw around all the time.

@Tink801 didn’t stop there, inquiring why Yoplait didn’t simply list “strawberry” if it were indeed an element in the dairy concoction. By this point, the social media rep needed an escape, so she promised to pass off the customer’s concern to the “team” to rectify. 

If it were as easy as noting strawberry in the ingredients list, Yoplait would have surely done it in the first place to avoid any misinterpretation. But in all likelihood strawberry does not figure into the yogurt's composition, and hence it was left off the roster. God knows what “natural flavors” actually entail, and Yoplait would indisputably emerge unscathed if ever pursued in court. Ah, the beauty of ambiguity.

Back to my point about corporate responsibility. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media platform together comprise the new agora of the 21st century. They provide public forums wherein companies can engage customers and customers can engage companies. Brands are inclined to own up to their activities when pressed about them, otherwise they risk their reputation and credibility, and not merely to one customer but their entire following plus some.

Before it was unreliable word of mouth and wishy-washy hearsay that dominated the customer-corporate world. Today you get it directly from the horse’s mouth, and it’s instantly conveyed to the world.

Customer has indeed become king. 


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