Social Networks: The One Place Customers are (Probably) Being Honest About Your Brand

One of the biggest headaches brands and companies face is getting customer feedback. The case is far from the fact that the information is not out there – it’s the reliability of the data that’s just so shaky. With that, comes the risk that product and service strategies can be founded on ‘facts’ which couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Part of the blame lies in the methodology used for the collection of this data; direct questioning, for instance, while it satisfies the immediate need of getting a response, has no mechanism of ensuring truthfulness — for obvious reasons. That’s just one of the many rattling shortfalls of models of inquiry.

Thankfully, the burst of social networks changed all this as they have fast grown into places where information is effortlessly volunteered. Why? Let’s look at some of the reasons why they are now the ‘homes of truths.’

Information is not solicited (not in the way companies do)
I remember how, back in junior school, some students just wouldn’t participate in class but at lunch-break, they were the loudest. What’s fascinating is how this can be equated to research. Most people will ignore unsolicited surveys, shun nagging emails begging for reviews and there is very little companies can do about it. That’s your teacher in class, probing for answers. However, once they are in their ‘space’ to say what they think, they speak freely and honestly about how they perceive certain brands, and why they pick some over others. It’s lunch-break talk out in the open field where they talk because they want to.

That’s the irony of direct research. Sometimes, the way to guarantee a cold shoulder or dishonesty is to ask someone who has reservations about participating in an investigation. Yet, when people are just given the space, the surprising thing is that they can talk more without any push. That’s what social networks facilitate. Free, open and honest conversation unmarred by the need to ignore or lie just to get the survey over and done with.

Customers cannot separate social media and emotion anymore
Once upon a time, people discretionary about how they used social media.  Posts were planned, and users managed to keep their private issues away from the ‘public’. Today, social media has become a fundamental part of the way people learn new things, communicate with friends and family, share ideas and discuss pertinent issues. In other words, in as far as the communicative spectrum is concerned, people pretty much cannot live without social media anymore. With Tweets going into the billions per day, and a reported 1.3 billion active Facebook users announced at the beginning of 2015, the case is clear: the use of social media is not only widespread – but extensive. Certainly, more than the initial uses were with the early users!

The keyword being ‘emotion’ therefore, it takes a split second to figure out that part of the conversations on social networks will encompass issues which are dear to people’s daily life. Such as the usability of their new mobile phone, their perspective of emerging products and services, and such. Which brings me to the next point.

Experiences stamp the facts
Customers interacting with a new product have very personal experiences in how they find them and thereafter, perceive them. Getting access to this singularity is what data miners hunt for because ultimately, it’s the individual account which guides the design of product upgrades, concepts and service delivery. To illustrate this, here is an unrehearsed recording of the reactions of babies tasting lemons for the first time.

Every single reaction in the video is categorically different and arguably, while there is a generally similar reaction, every wince is different. In a sense, therefore, it’s the interrogation of individual tastes which makes some products a cut about the rest.

People feel ‘safe’ on social networks
The last but certainly not the least of the reasons why social networks are vineyards of data for companies and brands is the fact that by some means, perhaps in the comfort of virtual groups and circles, people feel ‘safe’ on social network. Users will say just about anything on social media, individually or as part of an ongoing conversation. No social network illustrates this any better than Twitter, where (allow me to pick extremes) some popular conversations have been recorded to reach more 10,000 reactions in spaces of minutes. That’s nothing compared to the 300k/minute reactions some outrageously juicy subjects have received in the past.

The point this all tries to make is that people no longer view social networks as websites or web services the same way we view email and sorts; social networks are new virtual hangout (and homes, to others) where constantly, through the day, they are sharing information – a great part of which can be the experiences with their products, services and brands.

The Bottom-line
Social media is the ‘now of things’, and there are very few places where people are more honest about their interactions with brands than they are on social media. Companies therefore have the round opportunity to tap into this mass of data where people more probable than not, speak freely and honestly about their experiences with brands.

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