People power the cornerstone to consumer success

It’s often a simple equation for social media-savvy consumers these days – if you have strength in numbers, you will generally succeed.

Why deal with a call centre or send an abusive email when you can get your point across on Facebook or Twitter in front of thousands of like-minded customers?

This is the reality that brands now face with consumers not hesitating to take advantage of ultra-sensitive and (mostly) attentive community managers on Facebook and Twitter.

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The latest victim to bear the brunt of this trend is Coles, paying the price (excuse the pun) for their controversial decision to drop milk prices to $1 per litre.

An irate post late last week on the Coles Facebook page sparked an outpouring of anger toward the supermarket giant, criticising its role in the supermarket price war and the devastating implications for Aussie farmers:

“Dear Coles, Your $1 per litre of milk deal is killing the lifeblood of our dairy industry…Dairy farmers who work 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, who have been dairy farming their whole life, whose cows are their whole life will have to stop farming as it is no longer economically viable to continue. I am ashamed to watch your ads and us farmers burn in resentment when we do so…” said 31-year-old teacher and farmer, Jane Burney.

Reaching more than 73,000 ‘likes’ and 4,500 comments over three days, the post may not have drawn a quick response from Coles but it certainly struck a chord with everyday Australians, congratulating Jane for speaking out on the issue and castigating Coles for its ‘commitment’ to Aussie growers.

In the end, it was the viral sharing and popularity of the post that not only made it successful on Facebook, but also a hot talking point on traditional media platforms– a prime example of the power of consumers in social media.

Coles is not the first, and certainly not the last, brand to be held accountable for its actions on social networks. Just last week, Channel Seven News received a barrage of abuse after broadcasting footage of a deceased 13-year-old on a farm near Wollongong.  The grieving mother then posted a complaint on Seven’s Facebook page which Seven subsequently deleted.

With more than 30,000 people outraged by Seven’s actions and offering online support for the mother, Seven’s Director of News, Chris Willis, was forced to restore the post and issue a public apology.

Ultimately, consumers of today are increasingly turning to social media channels to solve their problems and it’s clearly working.

Whether you’re disputing your phone bill, trying to win a free holiday or just wanting to get something off your chest, social media is one of the most effective mediums to achieve this. And if you manage to get a few ‘likes,’ ‘shares’ or ‘comments,’ there’s a good chance you’ll get your way.

As social media community managers, all we can do is remain transparent, attentive and most importantly aim to harness the power of the people in a positive way.

With the gap between social and traditional media ever-increasing, examples such as these indicate that community managers now have a greater responsibility than ever before.

Businesses must therefore recognise them as key brand ambassadors in the overall marketing strategy, or risk becoming another victim of this group mentality.

By Tom Hann

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