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Ed. note: This is part of a series of excerpts from The Social Customer, the new guide to social customer acquisition, monetization, and retention by Adam Metz. For the first entry, go here.

This installment continues Chapter 2: The “How” and “Where” of Engagement and the Four Social Customer Scenarios. Adam discusses the brand as a social object.



Before we wrap up we’ll want to spend a bit of time examining what makes a brand a good “social object,” and what, honestly, makes a brand ill-suited to be a social object. A couple of years ago I spent a bit of time working with a Bay Area luxury hotel brand—they came to our company because they wanted to monetize the social customer effectively and get more customers from the social Web. In the end they executed a little less than half of the strategy my company wrote with them—they felt that a lot of the recommendations were aimed at an audience that was a little down-market of their target audience (i.e., people who couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel).

Since then the hotel shied away from Social Customer Management, and they have a minimal presence on the social Web. There’s a few reasons for this. First, the brand honestly doesn’t want their customers’ input on how they should do business. One part of the “brand value promise” of being a luxury hotel, from their perspective, is that they create the experience for the customer, not the other way around. To them, managing the social customer simply means promoting the brand in social channels, without embedding the voice-of-the-customer. Does this make this hotel brand a social object? No, but I guess that was never what they sought to achieve in the first place. This all begs a critical question: what are the conditions that make a brand a successful social object?

First, the brand needs to accept the six foundational premises of Social CRM. Here they are, as elucidated ever so clearly by Paul Greenberg in his landmark book, CRM at the Speed of Light:

  1. If the customer likes you, he will stay with you.

  2. If a customer doesn’t like you, in time she will leave you.(This statement totally accounts for the economic concept of switching barrier or exit fees; in other words, the reason you don’t terminate your cell phone plan every time you see your outrageous phone bill is because it would be a royal pain to start a new phone plan every month).

  3. People are looking to control their own lives.

  4. People are looking to fulfill their own agendas; they’re self interested. This goes a bit beyond number 3 because it states that within people’s lives, at different times, they have different agendas.

  5. If you help people control their own lives and fulfill their own agendas, and you’re nonobtrusive and valuable, and provide memorable experiences, they will like you.

  6. If you fail to help them, they won’t like you, and won’t continue with you because someone else will help them. (There’s those switching barriers again.)

It’s pretty common-sense stuff, and I can almost picture Sam Walton dispensing this kind of advice from a parking lot in the sweltering summer of ’64 in Bentonville. These switching costs (or switching barriers) mentioned in the foundational premises of Social CRM above are a big deal. I sat down with one of the smartest people in Social CRM—Oracle’s VP CRM Product Strategy, Mark Woollen—and he had a singular perspective on this.

“If becoming a fan [of a brand] results in someone being peppered with connection requests [or messages] from a brand that they don’t have a connection with, the switching cost is not too high,” Woollen said. “The switching cost would be much higher if the social channels were better integrated with the rest of the channels the company is using to engage with the customers.”

This means that your brand will lose fewer social customers, and be a better social object, if your social channels (social networks, mobile, etc.) are better integrated. What does that integration look like?