Much has been made of the way people interact online. There has been a lot of discussion about how the attention spans of users of social media are getting shorter and possibly more superficial. In many ways there is some substance to this point of view. Much of the interactions in the social web are very light and seemingly meaningless, even the name of some of the platforms, like Twitter, suggest time wasting. But the fact that some people waste time online should not be confused with what customers are expecting from the brands they deal with.

The social web, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter in particular, allow brands to develop relationships with their customers in way that has never existed before. Customer loyalty has always been recognised as incredibly important but developing metrics around more than swiping a card at the point of purchase has been hard. Now it’s not. With a well designed and executed social media strategy companies can now identify and reward their most loyal and vocal customers: the brand evangelists who actively encourage others to purchase from their favourite brand.

The companies that are doing this the best are the ones who understand that they need to create a relationship with each customer – they need to recognise that each customer is unique and reward people for interacting with them. Customers now have more power to voice an opinion than ever before, and they will do it whether you are participating or not. It is no longer good enough to simply treat customers as something to convert into a sale then move on. ‘Speed dating’ is out and romancing to find out ‘what makes them tick’ is in.

The brilliant people who work at Facebook understand this better than most. In fact, they have recently changed the way that advertising works within Facebook to incentivise brands to be more active and engaging. Facebook knows that the real value from their platform comes from the engagement that creates longer term relationships. And they are now changing the game within Facebook so everybody else gets that too. It is likely that the recent changes to the Facebook platform will be games changers for some brands. Others, such as the ones who have been looking at social media as simply a broadcast platform, are going to struggle. What is certain is that Facebook’s advertising revenue is set to make another giant jump as the more engaging brands will be paying less to spread their message through the platform.

As a marketer you have many choices about how you treat your audience. You can develop techniques that let you know who they are and how they wish to be communicated with and you can engage them in creative interesting ways, creating long term relationships. Or you can look at the customers as numbers to be churned through quickly. We all know that being treated as an individual is more effective, and now it seems there is going to be an additional financial benefit to it.

So you can view the social web as a place where people waste time and generate low value. But it is up to you, as a marketer, to change the way your customers interact with you. Social media is fast paced and there can be a lot of distractions. To really stand out you need to create meaningful experiences – ones that can turn into happy long term relationships.

Mark Cameron
BY Mark Cameron ON 22 February 2012
Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles.

Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy.
He blogs at markrcameron.com and tweets from @MarkRCameron.
  • bethanybrightmore8

    With social media, one of the keys to success is building a long-term relationship with your customers. Thus, continuous communication and engagement is the core foundation required so that your social efforts don’t go to waste!