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Brands don’t do breakfast

In a poll of my Twitter network the vast majority of respondents admitted to reaching for their smartphone within moments of waking up.

67 people responded to a Google questionnaire that I shared earlier in the month seeking insight on media habits.

More often than not people check email and social networks before they get out of bed. The remainder, without exception, log on over breakfast or on their way to work.

Granted this was a wholly unscientific exercise conducted with a self-selecting sample but it spotlights an opportunity that social media marketers are missing.

In a bid to engage customers and prospects, brands are publishing content on channels such as their owned websites, Facebook and Twitter. Yet very few brands post content around breakfast time.

My view is that the 9-to-5 approach to social media is a reflection of the relative immaturity of this emerging form of communication.

There are notable exceptions. Travel companies were among the first to monitor and engage with brand mentions on networks such as Twitter.

Inevitably if you have a bad experience on your commute to work you reach for your phone and shout out to your network. Bus, train and airline operators – keen to protect their reputation – do their utmost to deal with issues in real time.

It’s no secret that the fastest way to resolve a customer service issue is to become a brand vandal and complain noisily via Facebook or Twitter.

The simple fact is that for consumers complaining via Twitter it is a lot simpler than visiting a retail store or dealing with an offshore call centre.

In fact the willingness of consumers to embrace social media is one of the reasons that many sectors, such as retail banking, have been slow.

The fact is that they simply wouldn’t be able to cope with the demand from customers seeking to engage directly.

There are two possible reactions to social media within an organisation: social media as a bolt-on channel; or as a strategic platform for engagement with your audience.

There is a third option of course which is to ignore social media completely and hand your reputation over to the brand vandals. Fortunately this is no longer a route that many organisations are taking.

In using social media as a bolt-on channel, an organisation transfers the communication techniques that it has used with its traditional audiences, typically the media, and supplements them by sharing content on social channels from 9-to-5.

In contrast the strategic approach to social media recognises the opportunity that it offers a business to put its prospects and customers at the heart of its business. This is the shift towards social business.

But consumers also need to temper their expectations. Re-engineering businesses from 9-to-5 so that they put social communication at their core will take time.

These changes may be driven by technology but ultimately they are cultural and organisational and will take several generations to play out.

Brands may not do breakfast for now, but increasingly they will.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

17 Comments

  1. Afternoon Stephen, actually banks already have the capacity and support to handle out-of-hours queries. Admittedly these are primarily aimed at journalists, but it’s a small step to monitor social feeds too. And with customer service teams routinely working longer hours too, resolution could be reached in the wee small hours now.

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