The Thank You Economy isn’t some abstract concept or wacky business strategy. It’s the way we buy and sell, the way we’re interacting as consumers, as employees, as entrepreneurs on all levels, right now. The way our marketplace functions has been evolving right before our eyes. Top-down, one-way exchanges are gone, replaced by relationships based on open, honest, and constant communication between customers and business.
Good Manners Are Back in Fashion
Courtesy and respect were prevalent in older days, and word got around if someone in the community was rude. If customers were pleased, they told their family and friends. If customers were unhappy, they told even more people. Businesses lived and died on their reputations.
The growth of big corporations and the pursuit of profits changed these old-world values. Firms cut corners and manners took a nosedive. No longer did businesses build trust and loyalty through the countless small, personal interactions which were so crucial to all good human relations. Instead, they tried to enhance their profits by eliminating all unnecessary niceties.
Enter the Internet, which dramatically changed the face of business. At first, its electronic remoteness and sheer size only extended individuals’ sense of isolation where people experienced fewer human interactions when they could purchase anything they desired online. They “never had to leave the house.”
But since the emergence of Web 2.0 (which is now known as social media) in 2003, the silent, anonymous, private Internet suddenly turned extremely chatty, personal and revealing. People began talking to one another again.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and so on, now provide a way for people to reconnect and recapture the social satisfaction missing from many business transactions. Lo and behold, “Word of mouth is back.”
The rapid development of social media has led to the emergence of the “Thank You Economy,” where business leaders revert to old-world ideals. The Thank You Economy rewards firms that authentically learn “to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way,” online and off.
Companies must join online conversations. Customers want to know and feel that they care. If they suspect that firms don’t, they will inform their social networks. Happy customers can become your strongest advocates. Unhappy customers are your best tutors – teaching you where, what, why and how to improve.
The Eleven Excuses Against Potential Value of Social Media
“People don’t talk about things they don’t care about. So it’s up to you to make them care, which means you have to care first.”
Ignore these 11 criticisms against social media potential:
- There’s no ROI
Even if you can’t prove it with numbers, you know in your gut that gaining the trust of a customer is basic to making the sale.
- The metrics aren’t reliable
Advances in gathering and interpreting data about social media initiatives already have and will continue to become more accurate.
- Social media is still too young
Early adopters have a clear proven advantage. Don’t wait and see. Do it now. Playing catch-up is not fun.
- Social media is just another trend that will pass
If Twitter and Facebook lose popularity, users will move to the next new platform. Savvy firms will move with them. Move to where the attention goes.
- We need to control our message
Smart companies aren’t afraid that angry customers might post unflattering comments on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or their blogs. If you are apprehensive, it’s time to examine your business practices.
- I don’t have time to keep track of what every Joe or Jane is doing
Disregarding the importance of customer comments is business suicide. Everyone will see that comment. So, better address it early on.
- We’re doing fine without it
If that’s your attitude, you clearly don’t care about your customers. Competitive firms are proactive and are “always on the offensive.”
- We tried it, it doesn’t work
Using social media is a long-term commitment. If it hasn’t worked yet, reconsider your approach and how you value your customer.
- The legal issues are too thorny
Company leaders must direct the legal department to serve company goals, including the firm’s new embrace of social media.
- It takes too long to pay off
The benefits of social media far surpass those of traditional marketing at a tiny fraction of the cost.
- Social media only works for a start-up, lifestyle or tech brands
This is untrue.
How to use Social Media to Win
To succeed in the Thank You Economy, you must care obsessively about customer service. The culture of caring must start at the top and reverberate through the organization. If you want your culture of caring to reach the customer and spread by word of mouth, your messengers (that is, your employees) must share your philosophy.
Care more about your workers than you care about your customers or your competition. Achieve this by treating employees like grownups and ensuring they feel as though their individual needs are being met.
“Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated…by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring and the power of word of mouth.”
Employ the six building blocks of employee culture development:
- Begin with yourself
As your organization’s leader, embody your company’s culture. Don’t try to create a hip workplace if that’s not what your firm is about. “Self-aware leaders don’t waste a lot of time or money trying to be something they’re not.”
- Commit the whole hog
The mental commitment to enhanced social media marketing is more critical than “financial commitment.” Once you are resolved to pursue a social media initiative, you’ll reallocate your budget to find the money you need.
- Set the tone
Take a personal, one-on-one interest in your customers. Don’t just tell your workers how to interact with your customer base; show them.
- Invest in employees
Identify staffers who want to start your corporation’s Facebook or Twitter account, or who have other ideas about moving into the social media mainstream. Give their ideas and suggestions for the credence and support they deserve.
- Trust your people
Let your employees express themselves about the firm in their uncensored tweets and blogs. Give them the freedom they need to provide top-quality customer service, open communication and transparency.
- Be authentic
In this era of instant social networking, good news and bad news both travel fast. If you make a mistake that receives public attention, take public responsibility and make a public apology at once. Authenticity brings long-term benefits.
“At its core, social media requires that business leaders start thinking like small-town shop owners.”
When you find a special employee who cares about your firm and its products or services, with a strong sense of ownership and identification with your customers, do everything in your power to keep that person working for you.
Intent: Quality Versus Quantity
While passion is critical to any person or business success, the single biggest differentiator in the Thank You Economy is good intent. Customers will recognize when your intentions are good, and they will flock to you.
On the contrary, if you lack good intentions, people will expose you in a heartbeat, and they now have the tools with which to do it on a very large scale and quickly. If your only reason for using social media is to sell at any cost, to garner more fans or to direct people to your store, you’ll lose.
“The platforms you use are incredibly important to successful social marketing, but they will always be a close second to your intent and your message.”
Having a huge following merely means you have a lot of contacts, not connections. If you stand aloof from the emotional centre in your interactions with your audience, customers also will distance themselves from the emotional centre, making them less-valuable clients to you. Social media campaigns should never be forced, but rather based on authentic engagement. Two practical mantras that ought to define your day-to-day intentions are water as many plants as possible and put out every fire.
Shock and Awe
Every once in awhile, amaze people with something so outrageous that not only will they be wowed on a personal level, they will spread the word. This genre of the campaign is difficult to execute, but it is effective.
Rapper 50 Cent is familiar with the advantages of generating shock and awe. Responding to a critical slam by a disgruntled fan, Canadian teenager Pierce Ruane, who posted a YouTube video claiming that 50 Cent was a sellout for advertising Vitamin Water and other products, 50 Cent flew Ruane to New York City and posted a new YouTube video of them having fun hanging out together.
What can firms learn from 50 Cent’s example?
What if, say, a large electronics retailer spent $4 million to send everyone on Twitter who turned 21 on April 21 a coupon for 50% off an iPhone 4? Or what if chocolate giant Hershey gave some of the people it interacts with frequently online all-expenses-paid family visits to Hershey Park, its chocolate-themed amusement park? These customers would speak positively about the firms, spreading precious word-of-mouth publicity and creating much more value than any advertising campaign might accomplish.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money creating shock and awe. Even sending your top 20 or 30 social media followers a handwritten thank-you letter and a rose will create a positive effect.
The Thank You Economy in Action
The following case studies illustrate how businesses can use basic social media principles to great advantage:
- Avaya: Going where the people go
Known for high-performing communications systems and services, Avaya demonstrates that even a business-to-business company can use social media to great advantage. While Avaya mainly uses Twitter to handle customer questions and complaints, one astute marketing director noticed a terse tweet that simply said: “ShoreTel or Avaya, need a new phone system very soon.” Avaya signed a $250,000 contract with the tweeter 13 days later.
- AJ Bombers: Communicating with the community
Angie and Joe Sorge launched their Milwaukee hamburger restaurant in March 2009, and they have spoken with its market about nearly every aspect of the diner since day one. The owners use social media for many reasons; to embrace customer input on menu items, prices, decor, promotions, and more.
- Joie de Vivre Hotels: Caring about the big and the little stuff
Aiming to perfect the “art of customization,” California’s largest boutique hotel company tries to bring the “joy of life” to its customers daily. Every month, employees vote to give the Best DreamMaker Award to the co-worker who found the most uniquely thoughtful way to deliver an “over-the-top experience” to a guest.
- Irena Vaksman, DDS: A small practice cuts its teeth on social media
A pioneer among medical professionals, Dr Vaksman uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to educate the public, to exchange information and interact with her patients, and to differentiate herself from thousands of other dentists in San Francisco.
- Hank Heyming: A brief example of well-executed culture and intent
Visionary Virginia attorney Hank Heyming uses social media to enhance his professionalism, connect with his clientele and offer affordable assistance to start-up entrepreneurs.
Marketing Really Has Gotten Harder
Despite and because of technological advances, marketing is more difficult now than ever. Markets are shifting and splitting into niches, customers are located in the least likely places, and the online world constantly is changing.
Companies must be willing to learn and adopt social media strategies. Firms that wholeheartedly embrace the principles of the Thank You Economy, rearrange their budgeting priorities and figure out how to use social media to their best advantage will realize an incredible return on any investment they make. If you’re waiting for social media concepts to become mainstream and produce Wall Street-style metrics before you make the commitment, you’re going to be left in the dust.
Customer expectations and behaviours have changed irrevocably, and businesses must take necessary creative steps to meet them. Social media likely will change in the future as new technologies give rise to new ideas and platforms, but the vibrant, vocal online community is here to stay.
For success, invest the necessary time and energy now.