The Answer to “Why Should I Use [insert Social Tool]?”

Because there isn’t a good, compelling reason not to.

The challenge is that there isn’t a “silver bullet” or industry secret that you haven’t yet stumbled upon, so “an (one) answer” doesn’t really exist.  The answer depends on the organization.  There has to an identified challenge or business objective to tackle – then a “Social” mindset could be among the solutions.

Now, this is pretty abstract – so I wanted to take a look at what happened to Netflix back in July 2011 as a specific scenario in real business context, and offer up another way of addressing this question along with a few ideas for how an organization could have been prepared and handled such a business problem:

The background:

  • Netflix announced new plans and price changes for its DVD and video-streaming subscription services – separating the two and essentially doubling costs for its customers for the same services they’ve already been paying for
  • Netflix received at least 4,300 comments on their blog, over 40,000 Facebook comments; of which thousands of new fans joined the page just to express their outrage

Some pros:

What they did wrong (or just plain didn’t do):

  • Lack of apparent preparation for this announcement – little to nothing about it on the primary ways they interact with the public (Facebook, Twitter, Blog).  They’ve invested in growing the audience, why not use it!?
  • In its e-mail announcement to all customers, Netflix didn’t offer up a venue for customers to give feedback and didn’t link to their blog post that better explains the changes. They also did a horrible job in explaining why the pricing was going to change.
  • After the announcement, neither their Twitter account nor their Facebook fanpage, nor the Netflix blog has been updated by the company in over 24 hours. Not even a “we hear you and we’re working on it” post. According to a few replies to their July 12th blog post, Netflix even temporarily disabled the comments feature, but then turned it back on. Preventing customers from voicing their opinion on your digital properties certainly won’t stop them from voicing them elsewhere and actually gives them something else to add to their list of complaints.

Consequences:

  • As of October 2012 their stock price is down 78% or 208 points – that’s pretty huge
  • Loss of customers
  • Missed opportunity to delight customers and/or advocates
  • Overloaded call centers and customer support channels
  • Gathering various teams who are trying to formulate a public response to this event, that could otherwise be focused on other efforts
  • Working on coming up with an alternative solution to this business problem, that could be more pleasing to their customers

Some ideas about what they could have done:

  • Leverage their social asset (essentially a million individually identifiable people connected to them on social networks) to pilot their new plan and pricing ideas. With so many fans, followers, and customers, Netflix could have easily sourced a group of passionate individuals to give feedback and contribute ideas on how to approach changing plans and pricing.
  • Corral and quarantine negative responses to their blog, which is less exposed than Twitter or Facebook, by pro-actively asking customers for their feedback and giving them a designated place to do it.  Set expectations for how quickly they’d receive a response, and maybe even how the customer could structure their feedback/complaint (reduce the impact of harsh negativity)
  • Not gone completely silent! This is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make nowadays in managing a Social Media program. By agreeing to be your “fan” or “follower” your customers are engaging you in an unwritten contract: I’ll agree to listen to you and your marketing promotions, but in return if I have a problem I expect you to listen and respond.
  • Use a listening tool.  With a basic set-up of a tool like Radian6/Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud (or even a free tool like Hootsuite) Netflix could have received early warnings of the first comments via the social web and taken action right away – responding to individuals, listening to their concerns, reporting those concerns back to marketing and product, and in effect reducing the scale of this public crisis; and perhaps even converting some angry customers into satisfied ones along the way. This surely could have helped to relieve pressure from their customer support channels.
  • With an internal social collaboration tool (Chatter, Jive, Yammer, etc), Netflix would have the potential to quickly crowd source ideas for a public response, find subject matter experts who could contribute, and activate teams to get a response out the door. They could apply the same approach to finding an alternate solution to this business problem.