The Social Relationship Matrix- part 1
This emanated from one of the sessions on the new digital marketing paradigm and its expectations from the brand. The session, as is usually the case nowadays, was heavily focused on Social Media.
Soon enough, the discussion got skewed around the chant of how Brands need to create a relationship with the customers.
Another thing being evangelized (as you’d imagine) was that : One of the ways this relationship manifests itself in the digital world- is through the use of Social media platforms like Twitter. Well, rightly so.
The much talked about (American) stories of Zappos and Continental Airlines etc were told. How they achieved what they achieved- using the relationships developed through digital media platforms.
The subliminal intent also was “Let us, the third party Social Media Agencies, manage (Twitter/Facebook/the next best thing.com) relationships with your customers on your behalf.
But then, someone from the client side- (representing a global software giant)- threw the stone at the pigeon gathering. The question was-
Relationships imply deep commitments. How can an organization manage relationships? Internally? We don’t have the resources. Externally? How do they know how to respond to customers? Worse- How can one build relationships on the back of a third party? (My version of the questions- but the intent was the same)
I like these questions. These make the practitioners (or shall I say evangelizers) think more “on ground” stuff than just chant the mantra of Social Media and relationships. It challenges them to think beyond the fluff and look at more granular details. Obviously, the answer does not lie in your understanding of the digital platforms- rather in the understanding of how relationships happen.
My first answer to this- Sure. The best way for a brand would be to manage it all by themselves. They could probably personify the brand and stand for its subtle nuances better than a third party. If nothing else, the proximity to resources could make up a compelling reason for internal management.
On the flip side, look at this way. Brands have trusted and partnered with third party specialists since times immemorial. Ad agencies have been custodians of brands and PR agencies stand as stakeholder relationship managers.
Why- even customer service is handed over to third party companies. Some of them might be outside of your country- and probably never even used your product. And guess what? They do a good work out of it. They earn their way through it. They learn it. They are trained for it. They are specialists in their niche and can develop a degree of understanding. They know when to close and when to escalate.
For that moment of customer interaction- they become you. They become your brand.
But that reason apart, here is a second and more practical reason for it:
I think we suffer from a decision paralysis due to the fear factor of ‘deep commitments’. “If we start building this relationship, the customers start expecting a lot- like be present at all times; resolve issues on the fly” and so on. Relationships mean deep commitments.
My explanation to that- an individual’s expectations from relationships is not linear or consistent. In the Social Entities surrounding a person, there lie different characteristics and different expectations.
I explain it via a Matrix- The Social Relationship Matrix. Carried forward in the next post.
Think about it