The Squeaky Wheel Syndrome


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Last week I chatted about the Gravity that all around devoting too much focus on our “best” customers. To avoid that Gravity, we need to listen to a broad and diverse set of perspectives in our markets. That’s how we find the truth about our brand, our value, and our position in the minds of our buyers and prospects.

BUT – listening to too many diverse perspectives can be a problem too. And that’s the Gravity thinking that social media has created. I call it the Squeaky Wheel Syndrome. Here’s how it works.

  • Social Media has led many of us to believe that popularity is a measure of success. That’s a mistaken belief, based on other Gravity thinking. But, that belief drives us to reach out to gather more and more followers, friends, connections, clicks and subscribers. And so – we grow our audiences.
  • Many businesses naturally decide to focus on the perspectives generated by those newfound social media audiences. After all – social media is a simpler, easier method for gathering market feedback.
  • We execute surveys, ask questions, build feedback communities, use crowd sourcing tools and more to gather the perspectives of our social media audiences.

That’s dangerous.

Social Media feedback can be a very dangerous source of market intelligence.


First of all, I’ll ask a simple question.

“How do you know that your social media audience actually represents potential buyers for your offerings?”

The answer is – you don’t. We discussed that in my post, Control is an Illusion. You do not know that the people who are responding to your surveys, giving you advice, commenting on your blog or generally interacting with you on social media are in any way your potential buyers. Read that again.

Secondly, let me ask another question.

“Even if you assume that they are potential buyers – how do you know that their feedback is anything other than commentary from a grumpy, negative squeaky wheel?”

Social media can be a powerful platform for those audience members who are unhappy, negative or just plain cantankerous. It’s their chance to vent their frustrations (not necessarily due to your product), to joust with your social media support resources and generally suck time and resources away from your business.

Enter the Squeaky Wheel Syndrome.

Picture this scenario.

Your product and marketing managers are eagerly listening to the feedback they receive from your social media audiences. Their goals are to a) be responsive to customer requirements and needs b) listen to their audiences for new product and solution opportunities c) keep those audiences happy to avoid negative social media feedback.

Enter a few Squeaky Wheels:

  • The guru has in-depth questions and comments on the ins and outs of your product, service or solution. This guru can’t buy anything from you but enjoys playing “stump the chump” with your technical resources, finding new options they hadn’t thought about. Those new options and all the commentary can send you down the wrong product path – if you think this guru is a buyer instead of a tire kicker.
  • The grump is unhappy about life and their world. They share that unhappiness by being unhappy with your product, your marketing, your features – whatever they can find to grouse about. Again – this grump isn’t a target buyer -and may not even own your product. but since you’re engaging with them to try and make them happier – you make them feel good so they play along, sucking our resources, spinning our thinking.
  • The lonesome dove is on social media looking for some company for a conversation – and your social media folks are just what this lonely soul is seeking. You chat with them, respond to their questions, send them promos and opportunities – they feel so special. They’d never buy your product, but they are so thankful for your conversations.

None of these social media friends or followers are actually your customer. That means its unlikely that any of them are going to offer you feedback that’s truly valuable to you. They aren’t part of your target buying audience. Listening to them will only send you down the wrong track.

Balance is a necessary thing – in all areas of our life. Balance is especially necessary when you are listening to market feedback.

Just because someone is talking with you on social media – it doesn’t mean they have relevant feedback for your business.

I know – that sounds like a huge shift from our beliefs that we should listen to, and follow, what our customers say. It’s not. Customer feedback is critical.

Just be sure those Squeaky Wheels out on Social Media are the customers you really want to follow.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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