A Social Media War Story

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One morning…
… a small group of sales and service people from Company-Red realized that they could go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups and YouTube and get a list of all the people who were discussing the good, the bad and the ugly about their products. After spending some time and doing some digging, Company-Red realized that this list was not small but more like 50,000+ names. And they were shocked to see how these names looked a lot like their customer list. That was a frightening idea.

One general said “Hey, this is a huge threat – because anybody can get the same information. Frggin Social Media is a wide-open and completely accessible public space. As a matter of fact, this is even worse than publishing our customer list because the comments and postings actually describe our new products, they discuss what we do right and why they bought our products in the first place. Worse, they expose all our weakness – and some of that stuff we don’t even know ourselves.” The Chief of Staff consulted some experts and Company-Red launched Operation “Big Dig”.
The Big Dig
The “Big Dig” was a project to analyze and dissect the customer base. It was a project to use social media to find customers with problems. An elite team was created. There was only one mission: “Get into all the social networks, groups and communities, identify our customers, and help them solve their problems.” Within only three months Company-Red was receiving hugely positive feedback from all the customers who were helped. People loved Company-Red.

Yellow Submarine
Then another general salutes and says: “But if we can get that information about our own customers, then we can get the same information about our enemies – right?” So another ten people were assigned to perform a similar task but for a VERY different target group: “Find and help the customers of our competitors.” The new group called themselves “Yellow Submarine.” They dived into the social media space, identified the issues of the competitor’s customers and tried to help. Sometimes it was as simple as putting them in touch with their own customers who had similar problems and letting these experienced customers explain how Company-Red’s products had helped them.

Winning the first battle
The “Yellow Submarine” group did no selling, no pitching, no arguing about products and solutions. All they did was to make introductions and solve problems. Sure enough, the helpful customers from Company-Red posted lots of information to benefit the sometimes struggling customers from Company-Blue. Eventually, many of the Blue customers started buying now familiar products and services from Company-Red.

The Changing Battlefield
Company-Blue struggled. They were losing the battle by fighting a traditional war against a modern enemy. Their generals blamed the economy for the devastating situation. Inevitably, Company-Blue announced they were going “back to their roots.” They downsized and fired the social media manager, announcing “we need to get back to our product values and strengthen our solution selling model. We will not be distracted by all that new social media stuff that costs money, wastes resources and weakens our top down company culture.”

Ground Troops Affaire
On the other side, Company-Red understands that warfare has changed. Company-Red thought about their experience and decided that the best weapons to gain mindshare are no longer carpet bombing raids using advertising and public relations. The most effective tactic is sending ground troops into battle with order to identify and help one customer at a time – regardless of whether they are a customer of Company-Red or Company-Blue.

In the not so distant future
Understanding that it is only a matter of time before Company-Blue wakes up and rallies their troops, Company-Red is already planning their next attack to keep them off-balance. It’s easier now that they understand the terrain of the new social media battlefield. Company-Red is now tasking their commanders to bring all their soldiers up-to-speed in hand-to-hand social media combat. Already, Company-Red has 400 people in their “Yellow Submarine” and over 1,200 support staff focusing entirely on keeping customers happy – all by finding new ways to work through the social web.

@AxelS
Social Media Academy

P.S.

“…Based on a true story. Only the names, places, and events have been changed or altered…”

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000. XeeMe.com/AxelS

2 COMMENTS

  1. A really nice presentation of Social Media fundamentals. Instead of shouting at customers, the approach taken by Company-Blue, Company-Red talks to people. Relationship equity is created with Company-Red’s customers and prospects because value is created beyond the functional benefits of their products. Company-Blue’s approach establishes a product with a name, while Company-Red’s creates brand relationships.

    James Hipkin
    Blog: Hipkin’s Hip Shots
    Twitter: @JHipkin

  2. Great post Axel, this blog is a perfect analogy for what is going on in social media today. Our tactics have changed and will continue progressing for years to come. We are all striving to be ‘Company-red’ and to penetrate our audience with a strategic and effective social media plan. Until then, it seems that those that dive in and focus on customers one by one seem to be succeeding most prevalently. Of all the research done and of all of the changing mediums, the one thing that is staying consistent is our customers. Now we, as innovative thought leaders, must duck and weave to be in those mediums where our customers are talking and become a part of the conversation.

    Thanks for the analogy and the motivating words Axel.

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