P2P interview #4 with David Alston : " I like to use the analogy of a phone to illustrate why companies should be listening to their customers"

by Laurent François

  • hello David ! Could you introduce yourself and tell us how comes you’ve started blogging ?

Hi Laurent – I’m the VP of Marketing and Community for Radian6, a social media monitoring platform used by brands and agencies of brands to track what’s being said about them online in social media. I have been blogging for 5-6 years about various sites and locations that I found that I thought were valuable to share with others. I had been using this early blog as more of a delicious linking site (before delicious came along). However it was just this past year that I created a new blog for my passion regarding social media and it’s use for marketing, PR and business and general. This new site is www.tweetpr.com . I put it together as an outlet whenever a new idea, concept or analogy struct me on how social media could be used to engage with customers, advocates and influencers.

  • Social media…everybody talks about social media, but people like Tom thinks that nothing really happened in 2008. Do you agree with this statement ?

Well, if you look at the past 4 years and what Tom refers to each year each technology is about new ways for consumers to talk. I would propose that 2008 was the year of listening. We saw an explosion in the use of the word, “social media monitoring”, in 2008. Companies have begun to realize that with all of these easy to use tools for talking consumers are sharing their experiences about brands at an ever growing pace in social media. There are a number of concrete cases this year where brands that failed to listen and engage online felt the pushback from the online communities where their customers congregate. And if 2008 was the year listening applications took off then I’m hoping that 2009 will be the year of engagement, the next step in the evolution.

  • How do you think we can convince CEOs that if they don’t go on social media, they’re missing something ?

I like to use the analogy of a phone to illustrate why companies should be listening to their customers and potential customers in social media. Please keep in mind that I also don’t see social media as a “media” but as a two-way channel capable of growing and maintaining relationships with stakeholders. So the questions I like to ask to big on my phone analogy are: – If your customers are calling on the phone do you let it ring? If they are emailing you with orders do you delete the emails? If someone is in your store with a megaphone and yelling negative things about your brand over and over to you just ignore that they are there? Do you throw away all of the ideas placed in your suggestion box at the end of each month without reading them? Of course the answer is an emphatic no for each. So why then are companies completely ignoring customers and potential customers who are “calling them on the social media phone”? People are blogging, tweeting, posting videos etc..on their product questions, customer needs, brand complaints, new product ideas etc…right now. People do this because they want to be heard and recognized. They want a conversation. When companies don’t listen and don’t reach out to these people they are basically saying these customers don’t matter and their opinions and needs are not their concern. Not only that but everyone who follows these people also see that the company doesn’t care and that perhaps even worst that the concern he or she has maybe is true afterall. And the final kick in the brand’s assets is that Google and other search engines love fresh, relevant content and chances are these posts may appear on the first or second page of results when searching on that brand. Frankly, I haven’t met a brand yet that once they’ve heard this analogy has immediately prioritized finding their own strategy for listening and engaging in social media.

  • If you can achieve an utopia thanks to social media, what would it be ?

People now have many ways to communicate with each other. They don’t have to stick to simple one-to-one or one-to-many direct communications. The next generation relies very little on email for example, something used by the majority of the older generation. People relate to each other through communication and shared experiences. My hope is that all brands understand this and begin the conversation with the customers they hope to keep and future ones they hope to attract.

  • Thanks a lot David, and have a good week !

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