By Brian Robson
A reminder to individuals and companies “obsessed” with social media at the expense of conventional – and indispensable – offline offerings like excellent customer service, technical expertise, attentiveness, and personal respect and professional responsiveness: There is no post or tweet, there is no comment or link, and there is no text message or online promotion that can create a brand of lasting history – and genuine community.
Those things are not the result of social media, but a means to highlight this information through Facebook or Twitter, or other platforms.
I issue this statement without an ounce of hostility or an iota of doubt about the worth of social media.
I believe, however, that the best examples of the effective use of this medium – those instances where there is robust dialogue and conversations between, respectively, fellow consumers and customers and a specific retailer – mirror the actions of a brand in the real world.
In my role as President of FD Johnson, a leading supplier of industrial pumps, valves and systems, I appreciate the value of community; it has, thanks to more than 80 years of longevity on our part within the Greater Cleveland Area, a name and a face – there are many names and faces – responsible for the success of this family-run business.
Put another way, you cannot weather the Great Depression and the Great Recession, and endure the economic consequences of America at war – in Europe, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq – without the loyalty of a community of local friends and national customers.
That phenomenon is the centerpiece of a brand, which is more than just a business.
Transferring that spirit to social media demands a similar level of passion and clarity. Meaning: Much of what you may do online may consist of private messages to individual clients, in which you may answer questions about available items and inventory, or provide recommendations about particular pieces of equipment; you are there, writing and editing your own news, rather than publishing self-congratulatory remarks and other displays of vanity.
Resisting the temptation of pride is essential because too many businesses squander whatever social capital they possess by posting a series of boastful claims and arrogant assertions.
This behavior blinds a company to its faults, with regard to establishing a community through Facebook or Twitter; it distorts, by way of rose-colored rhetoric, what any outsider can see: A long queue of marketing boilerplate, irrelevant activity that does more to permanently alienate potential buyers than any equivalent means of attraction.
In so many words, many of the would-be creators of community are its most destructive enemies.
It is this failure of communication that makes community such an elusive online commodity.
It is this breakdown in communication that confuses customers, confounds longstanding clients and complicates relationships with everyone from suppliers and distributors to employees and residents of an actual community.
I close where I began, with an admonishment about the limits of social media.
There is much we can do – there is much we must do – but let us start by investing in our individual communities, so we can enjoy the rewards of these efforts within the realm of social media.
The community awaits our action.