Coping with social media's unpredictability

Social media influencers are unpredictable, but customer management guru Don Peppers offers a range of strategies for brands to better cope

Organisations cannot control social media influencers, but they can improve their ability to cope with the channel’s unpredictability, a customer consultant claims.

Speaking at a recent American Chamber of Commerce event in Sydney, co-founder of Peppers and Rogers Group and leading customer management consultant, Don Peppers, highlighted six strategies brands can adopt to prepare for the unpredictability of e-social communication. These are: Prepare for multiple outcomes; use analytics that don’t require a high level of accuracy; evaluate inputs, not just outputs; remain agile and respond quickly; identify and rely on the predictable trends; and trust-proof your brands in advance.

Peppers also outlined two overarching social media management principles which he claimed are distinct from corporate principles in play across many organisations today: Sharing information; and “decontrol”.

“As organisations, we need to deal with the fact that we can’t control social media influence,” he said. “You can’t manufacture authenticity – it’s spontaneous, and resistance is futile.

“Influence also cascades in the e-social world; it’s like an avalanche or brush fire, and it doesn’t matter which tree caught fire first… That means you have to be careful with word of mouth marketing.”

As an example, Peppers described Nestle’s former battle with Greenpeace over the use of palm oil in its Kit Kat products, which erupted on its Facebook page and quickly became a massive corporate issue. Instead of trying to take down YouTube videos, or deleting criticisms, the brand should have worked with its customers and the community on a better and more proactive response, he said.

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In addition, Peppers pointed out the norms of a ‘sharing economy’ are different from the ‘money economy’, and are driven by empathy, transparency and recognition rather than financial gain. In response, he advised brands not to offer money or free products to harness influence, but instead focus on ways of rewarding advocates through things like status awards, kudos, access to additional content, or direct contact with key brand ‘insiders’.

Another point worth noting about brand advocacy is that it’s not always the customers spending the most money who will bring your brand the most rewards, or who will have the most influence on social conversation, Pepper said.

“Design your value proposition for the most knowledgeable customers. They are the ones who will send you more customers in the future,” he said.

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