Mashable had a great article last week or so about Why Big Brands Struggle with Social Media. It’s full of well-thought out ideas like “just another marketing channel,” “does not fit into current structures” and “communities and content are global” which are all true. But it doesn’t really get to the heart of why Big Anything doesn’t really get social media.
The truth is much simpler: social media doesn’t work for big brands because social media is about one-to-one connections. Â As much as @comcastcares builds a little buzz on Twitter, it will ultimately fail because years of poor customer service (i.e. not caring about the individual) lead it to a point where even the least nice thing it could do would generate buzz. Â And that’s all something like @comcast cares is there for: to build buzz, to show it “gets it.” Â If it got it, it wouldn’t need Twitter.
Case in point: @therealshaq. Â If you haven’t read this post about meeting Shaq at a diner because of Twitter, you should. Â This is an example of one person trying to connect to people. Yes, it is a person who has had to build walls around himself to protect him and his, but he’s still a person who struggles to connect with other people, just like we all do. Â In your wildest imagination, do you really think @comcastcares struggles with the idea of connecting? Or is it all about how to generate buzz and dispell a reputation for not caring about customer service or the customer (if it wasn’t trying to dispell that idea, why call it @comcastcares? Why not just @comcast?).
If Comcast really cared, it would build scalable help systems and not shunt half its technical support calls to far-off lands. It would do things that actually helped the customer. If Comcast really cared, they would realize that they work for the client, not the other way around.
Shaq gets it. He knows that without the fans, he’s just a really tall, fit guy with a goofy smile. He knows that the connections that he makes (or, on a more scalable sense, the fantasy that any of us could potentially connect with him) is what pays his salary. Â
Shaq is a great and strange example because he is one person, and he is a big brand all in one. Â But you can see from the post, his Twitter account is about the man, not the brand.
Until Comcast can get an employee to willing want to get a Comcast tattoo on his or her ass, they aren’t a fan of the company, they just play on one Twitter. And Twitter and the other social networking sites make that very obvious to everyone. It shines a light on the difference between a person and a brand.