Four ways in which consumers use social media to influence the business life
It is crystal clear that social media have an impact on the business world, everyone has been agreeing on that for a long time already. However, it is interesting to think of the ways in which consumers could further increase business life in the future.
1. Consumers lower the prices by combined purchasing
John Crombez, Belgian senator, initiated the combined purchase of energy by West Flemish families. More than 8.000 families participated. The aim was to tackle and denounce the high energy prices in Belgium. This initiative’s success exceeded the SP.A senator’s expectations. Furthermore it shows what consumers are capable of when they combine forces. In this example, the action was initiated by a political party. In the future consumers will take charge themselves more and more often.
The arrival of social media has given consumers access to mass media for the first time ever. For a long time this used to be the privilege of journalists, opinion leaders and the major advertisers. Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer the option to consumers to reach the public at large. The website wij-kopen-samen.nl is an example of how consumers unite to make purchases less expensive.
This is how the site positions itself: We have taken the initiative to start up a buyers group. Any private individual can use this website to purchase a qualitative product from a provider who offers the product via this website. As soon as many members have subscribed for a product, its price will obviously decrease for everyone.
Decreasing the prices is only one of the many options of the contemporary consumer. Consumers manifest the explicit need to start a dialogue with brands. They wish to be involved in brand management. They want to contribute actively to the brands’ future.
2. Consumers enforce product launches
In 2007 a consumer movement was created concerning the brand Wispa. Wispa was a candy bar by Cadbury. The company had decided to remove this chocolate bar from the market. Consumers disagreed. In less than no time about a 100 Facebook groups were created by consumers who wanted to keep Wispa on the market.
More than 14.000 consumers had started a petition via social media. In the end, Cadbury decided to re-launch Wispa. And as you can expect, the new launch of the product was a major success!
Apple has fan sites where consumers develop new products, consumers brainstorm on Disneyworld fan sites about future rides for the park, … There are Facebook groups where consumers (n=460) ask for a Quick in Deinze. There are numerous examples of consumers who formulate specific needs towards brands. People gather in social media groups to send recommendations to their favourite brands concerning future product launches. This is the best input any company could dream of. When listening to these people, you also make them the perfect purchasers of those products.
3. Consumers demand super service
Consumers have become very strict concerning customer service, since they realise there is a continuous increase in competition, and that they are faced with a wide choice. In such a context, an excellent customer service is evident. If that service is not available, consumers like to expose that.
When a United Airlines passenger was dissatisfied with the company (they had broken his guitar), he wrote a song about their lack of service. The man, Dave Caroll, was a famous Canadian singer, which immediately turned his song into a real hype. More than 5,8 million people viewed his song where he mocked the airlines company’s service. This was the initiative of one single consumer.
The impact is a lot more important when consumers unite. The American company Comcast lived it. Because of a poor customer service, some consumers started the blog Comcastmustdie.com. The aim of the site was to destroy the company Comcast. The company became more accessible, listened to this threat, and by reacting adequately the blog’s main tone became less aggressive. The blog is still active, the bloggers like to keep an eye on things. These days consumers have the power to force companies to optimise their customer relationships.
4. The consumer him/herself advertises for his/her favourite brands
We can take it even further. Maybe consumers are the advertising agencies of the future, since they have an increasing understanding of marketing. They manage to build communities with fellow brand lovers. They talk about the brand’s future in these communities. They spontaneously make advertising spots for brands that they are a fan of. When the Apple iPhone was announced, 1800 consumers made an ad spot in only 1 week time. Two years later more than 250.000 of those spots were available (some for and others against the iPhone).
So what is left for the marketing managers? Dialogue facilitator
Social mass media is the tool which gives power to consumers. These platforms facilitate conversations between consumers. These conversations are the most powerful type of communication that is available today. Consumers have the most faith in each other, which increases the credibility of the conversations. Consumers want to have a say in the price, the product development, the customer service and the advertising. So what is left for the marketeer? Well, successful marketeers are those marketeers who succeed in managing the conversations between consumers. The new success formula is to start a dialogue with consumers and to translate that into specific actions for the brand.
The consumers’ impact will not decrease. Quite the contrary, the increasing penetration of mobile Internet will reinforce this trend. Integrating consumers and their conversations in the daily company management is the only way to a successful brand policy.