Availability Expectations

Availability expectations have truly changed in reaction to social media marketing. Currently, if a consumer experiences a problem or poor customer service they expect to be able to take to Twitter or Facebook and receive an immediate response. Social media acts in real-time, so consumers expect real-time responses; none of this 9am to 5pm stuff.

Under the classic marketing scheme, there was no support beyond regular working hours and if something happened outside those hours and was handled at that time, it was deemed to be exceptional.

Today, many consider anything short of immediacy inadequate. The main channels involved in this would be Twitter and Facebook. Social media has only increased consumers’ sense of entitlement. As a consumer, I find that social media marketing is better because I would much prefer a company cater to my needs.

From a business perspective, the classic scheme is slightly more attractive because there is more wriggle room. Being able to handle a customer’s crisis immediately via social media is attractive in that it can help a business put out a fire quickly or nip something in the bud. On the other hand, having strict business hours means less accountability and more ways to surpass expectations. In reality, how it is viewed from a business perspective depends on your business model, where you want to set the bar for customer service, and how available you want to be. The two could easily work together where social media marketing supplements traditional marketing in terms of availability; however, there will always be those consumers who find that supplementing traditional availability falls short of the immediacy of the new, social media level of availability.

Under the classic marketing scheme there was a strict marketing language with ready-made sentences what were legally safe and set companies in a position where they could defend legal claims that might come their way as a result. Social media marketing, however, often happens in such a way that it is not crafted to prevent lawsuits or to make sure that people are not offended. FAFSA tweeted out the Bridesmaid’s meme “Help me, I’m poor” in 2014 to encourage students to file their financial aid applications; it was humorous to some, but it was also offensive to many.

Real-time action and personal responses that are put out on the Internet for all the world to see opens the door for lawsuits where classic marketing campaigns may have spent weeks combing through legal repercussions before allowing an ad off the drawing board. As a lawyer, I understand the importance of making sure that information is well crafted before putting it out in the public eye. However, I also understand the need to deliver information in real-time from the viewpoint of a social media professional. I believe that the traditional model is better in terms of legal protection, as the more time something is reviews and vetted, the less likely it is to cause a problem.

The best way to combine the two marketing styles is to look at the people involved and make sure that social media and marketing professionals are well-educated on certain areas of the law from which issues may arise through social media. That is not to say that social media professionals need to go to law school, but highlighting some important or sensitive issues within a particular field would certainly help professionals more aware of what they are posting and feel more comfortable doing so.

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