A major barrier that keeps many brands from creating an integrated social media strategy is the self conscious worry around what people are actually saying about it. "What if they don't like our service?" "What if there compliant is unresonable?" "Great, now the rest of our customers will see what a few disgruntled customers think of us". The gap between a brand's view of its current strategy and a strategy integrated with social/new media always seems much wider to those making the decision than what reality actually presents. For example, if you ask an executive why they have not looked at a social media strategy you will hear a never ending list of excuses from 'what will our shareholders think' to 'our PR team tries to keep control of that stuff' to 'why would anyone want to talk to us'. On the other hand if you were to go to a customer of this same brand and ask them what they want from that brand, chances are the response will reflect a wish for better service, a different process, or at least that a brand has an awareness of the relationship (beyond man 25-50 bought a new stereo from us). People like to know that their investment in a brand is noticed.
Simplify the barrier - think referrals.
John Jantsch unitentionally frames this up nicely for me in his recent post about increasing the right type of word-of-mouth. "Referrals most naturally happen when two people are talking and one of the parties expresses a pain in the neck. If the other party just had her pain in the neck fixed, she may very well say something like, 'ooh, you just gotta call Bob, he’s the best pain in the neck fixer on the planet.' " Likewise, if manager from a brand is at a function and overhears this conversation about their brand, they will probably react. Maybe not by joining that conversation, but perhaps by addressing the person who spoke favorably (thank you) or the reffered indivual (may we help you). So why do these same managers freeze when it comes to social media?
Whether online or offline most new business naturally comes from a conversation about a problem. Luckily, we now have the ability to see some of these conversations online and react. Not just by listening, but by promoting those conversation to occur. Maybe it's by creating/recognizing a place where customers can talk to each other. Even if its only 50 customers, that's 50 more discussions than you heard yesterday.
The more problems a brand can solve the more people will be available to help that brand through word-of-mouth. Don't ignore the fact that the reason you are in business is that you have a solution for at least one problem people have. Whenever there is a problem, there will be an unhappy person. It's always about them, even when it is inconvenient for your brand.