For more than a millennium, the underlying relationship between consumers and business has overwhelmingly been defined by the term caveat emptor (buyer beware). However, over the past few years the easy to use mass communication tools we’ve dubbed “social media” has been subtly shifting the balance of power in the relationship between buyers and sellers.
Social Media is shifting the balance of power in the relationship between consumers and the businesses that serve them from caveat emptor (buyer beware) to caveat venditor (seller beware) and the easy to use mass communication tool known as social media is the sole reason for this shift.
The Power of Social Media Connection
The real driving force which is powering the social media explosion are the gossamer threads of human connection. The unseen, unmeasured force which seems to drive us to connect with other human beings.
This was illustrated clearly a few nights ago when my family watched an absolutely HORRID movie at home. It was one of cases where the movie’s marketing had caught our attention, but we never found the time to see it in theaters. I popped a bag of popcorn and we settled in to watch a movie which had been heavily marketed as a “comedy”.
We suffered through almost 2 hours of graphic sexual content and intense violence (such as gun shots to the head and a death by ax bludgeoning) delivered by a cast of recognizable actors playing one dimensional characters under the guise of “comedy” .
When the final credits rolled – my oldest son jumped up and ran to his computer.
“What are you doing?” I asked. After all, it was shortly after midnight and I was heading upstairs to bed.
“I’m a member on IMDB. This is what we IMDB members DO!”
Ah, the gossamer threads of social media literally pulled him to his computer to share his experience.
This is what social media looks like from ground zero.
Seth Godin refers to this kind of behavior as “tribal” and I think it’s a good description. My son actually felt a MORAL OBLIGATION to spare others in his “tribe” the “agony” of watching this painfully un-funny comedic romp through hell.
It’s important to note that part of our extreme disappointment with this movie was the fact that the marketing for this movie had painted it to be a “comedy”. I personally don’t find death by ax bludgeoning or gunshot wounds to the head to be even mildly amusing. Obviously from someone’s marketing perspective – these gruesome scenes are real side splitters.
The expectations set by the marketing played a huge role in my disappointment with the flick. We had all been duped. Had my son not jumped from his seat as if he were called to a 3 alarm fire – this blog post would have been all about how important it is to create realistic expectations in your marketing messages.
However, my son’s actions illuminated a deeper truth to social media.
People are smart. They’re smart enough to realize when they’ve been promised something that wasn’t delivered. When that happens, they get angry. They want to TAKE ACTION!!! That combination of emotion and easy access to mass communication tools is like spraying a gasoline mist into a cylinder.
The resulting social media explosion can be positive – or negative.
When it’s positive – it’s called viral marketing.
When it’s negative – well, it can cause a social media shit storm.
There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.
That was then – this is now.
Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others. Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.
The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website. Disappointed customers who feel strongly can now easily, post a Tweet, create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.
It’s becoming obvious that this type of sharing is one of the moral obligations of social media. Caveat venditor!!!