The definition of customer is:
‘a person who purchases goods or services from another;buyer’
I think that social media has blurred that definition. Before the social web gave the masses a voice, a business would really only have to answer to its customers in the very basic sense of the word – those who had bought their service or product. Fast forward to now and many businesses have opened themselves up to the attention that the social web can bring.
Are your followers/fans/readers your customers?
Bear with me here, but I think that when a person decides to follow (etc etc) a brand on social media, they become a customer. They may never actually buy one of your purple widgets, however by taking the time to want to hear from or even interact with that business online, they expect a certain standard of service and even product. When I say product, I mean product. The approach a business takes to its use of the social media channel and the output of that is a product, and the people that give a little bit of their valuable time to consume that product are now customers. Customers that may never physically buy from you – yet in this day and age you have a responsibility to treat that person with as much respect as you would someone who just bought your latest widget. They are paying you with their time. If you don’t, they have the power to make a relatively big noise about your lack of respect or service. That noise may well alter the purchase process of a person who is on the very precipice of buying your product. Boom! Sale gone due to a lacklustre approach to your now extended, non-transactory customer base.
I want a Ferrari. I cannot afford a Ferrari, and if I keep spending my time writing this blog, I may never be able to (sob). However, I love the brand and consume a lot of their content online. I’m a new age customer of Ferrari. If someone asks me what the coolest car ever is, I will tell them that it is the Ferrari Testarossa. I had actual posters of it on my wall as a teen. Right beside Pammy, but that’s a different story. If I was to have a rotten experience with Ferrari via social media, it would absolutely taint my view of the brand. If I felt that Ferrari were churning out awful content just for the sake of creating content, a little bit of my love for Ferrari would die. Fast forward again and I’ve sold The Social Penguin Blog for billions – I finally have the money to buy my Ferrari. Except my yearning Ferrari passion has dwindled due to poor customer service. I buy a Lamborghini instead. If only Ferrari had answered my tweet…
Come on Mike, Isn’t That a Little Over the Top?
Okay, so the Ferrari example is perhaps a little overblown, however I firmly believe that all brands/businesses/organisations or whatever need to seriously consider that people that invest their time with them via social media should be treated with the same respect and attention that those who ‘pony up’ for their products or services receive. It’s the new way of the world.
Now where’s that poster…
What do you think folks? Is my view a little utopic? Am I right? Has social media created a new type of customer? Tell me your thought in the comments below!
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