Hi there. I'm Matt. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.1

New here? More info about me here.

Subscribe via email or RSS

Feb 25, 2009 | Comments

It astounds me. It’s 2009; the Internet is over a decade old. Only now is it sensible to actively monitor online customer opinion.

Every business journal, academic, and guru has advocated for years that companies must listen to consumers to keep their business sustainable (or not). Why is every company suddenly hopping on the online “listening” band-wagon?

Ignoring the Signals

Social media did not immediately surge in 2008. Since the Internet’s inception, people have used the medium to contribute opinions. Usenet, one of the first online public forums, began in 1980. Blogging began as early as Usenet, but the term existed since 1997. Blogger and LiveJournal both launched in 1999. By 2004, “blog” was the “word of the year.”

In 2003, two iPod owners, pissed off about the device’s failed battery, released their anger on the Internet. They created a website and video, protesting the $250 battary replacement fee. With over 2.3 million visits to their site, Apple lowered the price, demonstrating the power of two consumers’ voices and establishing the credibility of “social media,” at least in my eyes. This PR nightmare, however, had little effect on corporate behavior.

Marketers Get a Reality Check

It’s easy for a marketer to ignore these signals. But two shifts recently occurred, changing the game for the Fortune 500.

Online Convergence of Marketers and Customers – Previously, commentary on blogs and forums was siloed. Most marketers and CMOs never physically observed consumer opinion in their normal online activity. But marketer and customer behavior converged. Twitter and Facebook are scalable, popular, mass communities that bring the two groups together. No longer could marketers continue their arrogance and ignore their customer’s voice, especially when it’s directly in front of them (i.e., if a CMO observes a nasty comment on the company’s Facebook fan page, sh*t goes down).

The Media’s Lovefest with all things “Social” – Not only are customers and marketers frequenting the same sites, but so is the media. Their incessant coverage of “social media,” as noted by the ridiculous emphasis on the Motrin and Tropicana backlash, places an overwhelming emphasis on online consumer opinion.  A few negative comments on Twitter are interpreted as a PR nightmare, ignoring the fact that this has occurred for years on the Internet, only on obscure sites. The possibility of media coverage is huge, placing corporate PR in a frenzy, monitoring as closely as possible.

In short, it’s one thing for customers to rant in a dark corner of the Internet; it’s another to actively observe it, especially via major media sources. It’s great that companies are beginning to monitor customer opinion, but it’s definitely for all the wrong reasons.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Andrej Kalesoski

    When will you little guys "get it" - it's not always about marketing when there are other more powerful forces driving customers in and customers out.

    Fortune 500 companies are already at a large enough position, in which they have a point of reach to their customers throughout their day-to-day lives way before the customer actually engages in social media. For example, a regular 9-5 employee will see a Coca Cola truck/vending machine/product/commercial many more times during their day before they have the convenience to go on their Facebook, Twitter or YouTube account. By the time they get to the media, the customer will have most likely already made a purchasing decision regarding whether or not to use the product of such company (Coca Cola) in this example.

    With that said, it is not a mission critical point if Coca Cola is NOT on FaceBook or Twitter. It's a completely different game when it comes to Fortune 500 organizations which already have a reach to their customers or potential customers than a start up who has no kind of identity in place within this world and must make a successful Twitter campaign to drive traffic to their web site.

  • Mike W

    Drej? Looking for you. It's Mike, from Scarborough.

  • Andrej Kalesoski

    Hey Mike, I've been looking for you too! Send me a message on Facebook it's the same name that I have while posting this.

  • Thanks for taking the time to write a comment on my blog!

    I think that we may be on different courses in your interpretation of my post. I was writing about companies monitoring social media, not participating. That is, is Coca-cola observing what customers are saying about the brand in blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc?

    It's less about driving purchase decisions and more about understanding your customer, their behaviors, and their needs.

  • Andrej Kalesoski

    In the end, what is the point of understanding your customers, their behaviors, and their needs unless you're able to get them to take an action towards a profitable outcome?

    Keep in mind that opinions on public social outlets might "skew" the feedback you gain. What I usually express on Facebook is not exactly what I may be thinking or feeling but more of a ploy to get my friends involved and garner social media popularity. There is a sort of group think that happens on social networks.

    Originally my reply was more towards Sheehan's statement that big corporate is somehow missing out on the social action when in reality being social will not necessarily make or break their organizations since they have existing means, that are working well, of getting customers to give them money and therefor the urgency to go "social" may not exactly be there. Keep in mind when it comes to large organizations, it's all about the bottom line.

blog comments powered by Disqus