Two Examples of how Brands are still not Joining the Social Media Conversation

A couple of years ago, whenever someone did a presentation on Social Media, most likely the last slide in the presentation would read ‘Join the Conversation.”

I did a few and I had a slide like that at the end, encouraging people to join Twitter for example in order to learn what customers were saying about their Brand or documentation or eLearning courses.

One thing I love doing on Social Media networks is to observe how other people and Brands approach conversations with their customers. It’s always fascinating to see what works and also what doesn’t work. And one thing I have seen is that many Brands are still not joining the conversations, and missing out on building stronger relationships with their customers.

Social Media gives Brands Permission Marketing

Remember the awesome book that Seth Godin wrote in 1999 entitled Permission Marketing? I still have mine and now that I have more time, I’ve been reading it again, of course this time on my Kindle Fire. There’s no question Seth has been a forward-thinker and someone always ahead of the curve. He made a lot of sense then and even today with the advent of Social Media, the principals still make a lot of sense. The idea around the book is to teach us how to go from ‘interruption marketing’ to permission marketing.

The one thing that has changed dramatically via Social Media tools is the ease with which customers give brands permission to market (converse with) to them. A simple ‘Follow’ on Twitter, or a ‘subscribe’ to the Brand’s stream on Facebook or a mention on Twitter creates that initial powerful connection. Do Brands take advantage of this permission? Not all of them as I have found. Let me explain.

I am a very passionate person about the things I like (make that things I love), and I always take this passion with me to Twitter. When I find a technology or a product I like, I have no hesitation to recommend it to my followers on Twitter and Google+ and friends on Facebook. That’s the way we all are today. We no longer speak in ‘like’ terms, we ‘love’ things and we blog about the things we love and we record screencasts show others exactly how things work.

For the last three weeks I have been Tweeting loads on Evernote, the popular and pretty awesome technology that allows you to capture anything and access it from virtually anywhere and from any mobile device. If I look back at my Twitter stream, I probably would find at least 30-40 mentions of Evernote and lots more from other fans who replied or Retweeted my mentions of Evernote.

What you won’t find is a single reply or retweet from any of the Twitter accounts from the Evernote folks. Not one simple mention saying, hey I’m so glad you like Evernote, thank you, or if you like Evernote, you should check out Evernote Clearly or Evernote Skitch. Nothing, zero, nada. Surely this isn’t because they don’t have a way to track mentions, right?

When I worked for Adobe as an Evangelist for Captivate, one of my Social Media strategies was to never miss a mention from someone who was talking about my product. I must have had at least 10 search variations of possible ways in which customers or prospects could mention Captivate. I also had Google Alerts because I wanted to make sure I thanked anyone who blogged about it, or was teaching a class on it, or was having an issue with it, too.

At one point I remember having roughly 40 search columns on Twitter, because I understood the importance of joining the conversation.

Today Customers Own Your Brand



Here’s another example of how I believe Brands are still stuck in one-way marketing shouting, they still don’t follow back their most precious assets, their fans. It blows me away to go to a Brand’s twitter page and see the huge discrepancy between the number of Twitter followers they have and the number of people they follow back. For example @CreativeSuite has over 60 thousand followers and they follow less than two thousand people back. @amazon is worse, they have close to 200,000 followers and they follow just 55 people. Even great Brands like @zappos, which has been mentioned as a Brand who understand the importance of Social Media and customer engagement has almost two million followers and they follow less than four hundred thousand people and looking at their stream, I don’t see a whole lot of @replies.

These are the people who love your product and are cheering you on and are telling their friends about your products and services and you aren’t following them back and learning more from their likes and dislikes about your products. wow.

The Social Web is one huge focus group.

Remember if someone doesn’t follow you, you can’t send him or her a DM or direct message. The funny thing is that I believe when a customer is frustrated about support or a bug in the software, they might try to reach out to you privately first, but if you don’t follow them, they won’t be able to, so they are more likely to voice their frustration publicly and no Brand wants that. I’ve seen this happen personally while at Adobe with Captivate and I quickly learned the advantages of always following back.

I’m not saying you should automatically follow everyone back, there are always the twitter accounts that are up to no good, but I believe we should also dedicate enough time and resources to get to know our customers.

So there you go, these are some thoughts I have on Brands not joining the Social conversation and not following back. What are your thoughts on this? Please leave a comment. One more thing, if you see a Brand that gets it, please let me know by leaving a comment here.


  • RJ,

    I agree with your idea about learning about users’ likes and dislikes. I wonder how practical it is, though. Sorting through a Twitter feed of tens or even hundreds of thousands people is a full-time job. How many companies have the resources to devote to that?

    If companies are responding directly to tweets through @replies or DMs in a timely manner, do you think that matters to customers more or less than getting a follow from that company?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Adam, thanks for the comment. I hear you but it’s so easy to follow people back and I really doubt that all all tweets customers sent to Brands actually get replied back. Many times people tell me they just don’t have the bandwidth for doing this or the time, but I say, why not get more people to focus entirely on this? I actually feel this is too important for a brand to dismiss. Thanks.

  • I agree with you RJ. I told you my story regarding Adobe. It was you who reached out and became the face of Adobe for me and changed my attitude towards the “faceless” corporation. This change in attitude has transcended into my classroom and the ripple effect is now being spread over several classes because of YOUR impact. Now I’m waiting to see if any of my other Adobe “friends” will be reaching out the way you did. Cue the crickets.

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