Hallucinations Aren’t Contagious, But Social Media Is Real For Many Business Functions

Marketers need take wisdom of the crowd seriously. I remember before the days of social media reading forwarded complaint letters from customers with wild visions of the true intentions of our ads. It was truly amazing what they dreamed up and saw. Our animated talking coffee bean was a little fresh talking, but one viewer said it looked like something very different and offensive and recommended we should be fired. We based it on a picture of a real coffee bean – I didn’t know what else to say.

Back then it was easy to laugh off such hallucinations. But today single comments and reviews are much more powerful. And social media conversations tend to be more about product experience that comes from operation’s delivery. That doesn’t mean marketing is off the hook. We make the service promise that sets up expectations. If we say the coffee is fresh on TV, but it’s not in just one store, complaints come in the form of tweets, Facebook updates, ratings, reviews, comments and even videos. Or some consumer may discover the coffee beans come from growers who don’t promote humane working conditions – more cause for public complaint.

A Forbes article made this point recently saying that the new power of consumers to influence brands has moved past being just a new marketing and branding tool. What if store employees start tweeting about the quality of the coffee and customers start commenting new flavor ideas? Now you have HR, PR, operations, product development and marketing involved. Like it or not the crowd is in your business. Transparency is the new norm and it’s contagious.