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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Does a cement maker need social media?

What companies is social networking important to?

It seems more important in a B2C environment than a B2B environment, though I have a feeling that is about to change. Think about how your friendly neighborhood Project Manager could be using a value-chain “social” network to manage workflow, and you can see where this could be headed.

I would argue that social marketing is more important in a services environment than in a products environment.

This owes to the intangible nature of services. Because the end result of a service is the feeling you have after experiencing it, our standards on service quality are difficult to compare across experiences and companies. Customers getting together to describe the service processes they experienced and how they made them feel start to overcome those challenges.

Most service companies that until now have enjoyed the veil of vaguely defined quality are in for a rude awakening.

It also owes to the fact that in the service environment, the customer plays a role in successful service delivery. Effective dialogue between company and customer can improve the customer’s understanding of what role they are supposed to perform, which would ultimately lead to more service success and a greater rate of overall satisfaction.

Beyond these elements, a company’s customer base also matters.

Whole Foods and Ritz-Carlton are world-class service organizations / experience crafters. In the twitter environment, Whole Foods has over one million followers, while Ritz-Carlton, as of last night, had 214.

That seems about right.

Whole Foods has a collective movement aspect to their experience. The company is open to suggestions from the customer base about how to better serve the market. They’re also hopeful that customers will interact with each other to help and educate each other on everything from new recipes to sustainable consumption.

Ritz-Carlton doesn’t have the collective support element to their experience. In fact, theirs is built on a perception of individual attention, care and privilege as a guest of their hotels. It’s an experience that infers some exclusivity – a club like feel amongst those can afford it. (I was going to say that you wouldn’t see the Skull and Bones Society with a public website, but my factchecker proved me wrong)

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