Telling your customers you want to engage and collaborate with them and then marketing to them are two very different things. The concept of wanting to collaborate with customers sounds great and at first everyone nods their heads and says, “yes we want to do that.” But when it comes time to actually doing it (collaborating) we oftentimes revert back to the idea of using social media to market or send out messages to our networks, not quite the same thing as collaborating with them. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with just using social media for marketing, but in my opinion it can be used for greater and deeper impacting business purposes.
Many organizations actually start out with social media marketing but then evolve to collaborating with their customers. Social media marketing has oftentimes been a necessary first step.
Collaborating with customers isn’t about sending them offers, news, information, or messages. Collaborating is about putting the customer at the center of how your organization conducts business, it’s about integrating the voice of the customer. It’s about making business decisions with customer input and feedback. It’s about listening to your customers and acting on the information they give you. It’s about implementing some of their ideas and co-creating and developing products and services. This is far more powerful then simply using social tools and technologies to get your message across.
It’s important to understand the difference here especially from an executive and decision maker standpoint. Customer collaboration shifts how your organization operates and it impacts multiple facets of your business, social media marketing on the other hand leaves your organization as a whole relatively unchanged (or with minor changes).
So, when you say you want to collaborate with your customers do you really mean that or are you really talking about ways to use social channels to spread a message?