Using Social Media to Gain Customer Insight: Pros and Cons

As MSPs (marketing services providers), printers need to encourage their customers to move into social media and must be prepared to help them implement it, too. But social media isn’t a one-way street to success. There can be surprises and drawbacks, too. Do you know what they are?

At its most basic, social media marketing costs nothing but your time. When handled well, you and your clients can reap tremendous results, especially if the campaign goes viral. I think of The Ace Group’s Calvin Klein QR code campaign in which 28% of the seven-figure hits to the mobisite were from Facebook and Twitter. I also think of a Dunkin’ Donuts SMS campaign in which 17% of recipients forwarded the offer to a friend.

In social media, viral is king. But viral isn’t always a good thing. Recently, I came upon something interesting on SunChips’ Facebook page that reminded me of one of the risks.

As you may know, SunChips introduced a 100% compostable bag last year. It was a huge hit and got national media attention, but the bag was so noisy that it was deafening. In fact, social media ultimately caused the demise of the bag: an explosion in the blogosphere, ubiquitous YouTube videos with ear-ringing audio, and mass Twitter and Facebook wall postings (so much for concern about the environment being greater than personal convenience!). The bag was pulled from the market.

A new, quieter bag introduced earlier this year. I decided to go to SunChips’ Facebook page to see what people were posting about it. There I found something else SunChips probably isn’t very happy about — several discussions (right on SunChips’ own Facebook site) about whether the SunChips bags were biodegradable at all. What I discovered was that many people been attempting to compost the bags to no avail. There were quite a few angry SunChips fans who had attempted to compost their bags for months. Turns out, the “right” composting environment isn’t something nearly any household can do at all, and when these enthusiastic SunChips customers found this out, they were not happy. SunChips had likely set up these forums to be able to monitor consumer reaction to its products and serve as informal focus groups, but in the end, it exposed itself to charges of greenwashing and misleading the public.

So much for a happy social media ending.

As you encourage your customers to move into a multi-channel marketing environment that includes social media, remember that social media has both pros and cons. It offers tremendous opportunities and significant risks, too.  Helping your customers understand and balance those risks is what being an MSP is all about.

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2 thoughts on “Using Social Media to Gain Customer Insight: Pros and Cons

  1. Marion

    I remember reading a pre-social media case study about an oil change franchise that wanted to enhance their customer satisfaction. They started by offering coffee in the waiting room, then heard feedback that if there’s coffee then why not donuts? Then the question became, what, no jelly donuts?

    The Sunchips example shows how social media amplifies that type of discussion. In the end, though, both are examples , I think, of company’s who are engaging in activities to promote how good they are at caring – about customers, about the earth. I wonder if those activities are true reflections of the company’s mission and values. If they aren’t, then nothing will expose that faster than social media.

    How about , we make a great chip. And the bag isn’t really awful for the earth. Discuss.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    So true! What was that Dudley Moore movie back in the 80s about the ad executive who got stale and couldn’t come up with any ideas so he checked himself into a psychiatric facility, where he started doing his best work by telling the unvarnished truth? (“Volvo: They’re boxy, but they’re good.”) I think of it every time I hear the commercial for Hanes women’s undergarments. “They fit great and don’t ride up.” Somehow, I thought this was related to your comment. Not sure why. Maybe I need more coffee.

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