Social media historically has been the method in which a customer can forge a relationship with a brand. Since it’s inception as a popular customer service channel, brands have been under increased scrutiny with their products, how they deal with customers and whether or not they trade in an ethical manner. It’s interesting then, to note that we’re witnessing a reversal. The uptake so far has not been huge, however we’re seeing brands begin to push back on their customers. The largest footstep in this direction has recently been from the popular American cookie brand Oreo.
Oreo boast one of the largest Facebook communities in existence with nearly 27 million fans. That’s a lot of fans to be worrying about; it’s a lot of fans to be worrying about if you loved each and every one of your fans equally.
Let’s change tack for a second and think about that. Are all Facebook fans and Twitter followers created equal? Or, for that matter, are customers in general always right, especially when it comes to complaints and customer service related issues on Twitter?
Recently, a colleague of mine mentioned that her mother was currently going through some issues with an Australian bank. The advice was to immediately set up a Twitter account and tweet the bank in order to progress her complaint. Her mother did and her complaint was escalated and was hurriedly resolved.
But, doesn’t this reveal something behind the mindset of customers who simply wish to get something out of a brand? The public nature of social media offers great power to honest customers, and in some instances, more to the dishonest. The spotlight can be shone easily on a disgruntled customer’s issue, and brands – tending to get nervous in the spotlight – tend to back down and shrink away.
I’m aware that all I’ve done is ask questions of you so far, but think of them as rhetorical. We now return to Oreo. Oreo took the big step of posting a rainbow centred Oreo onto their Facebook page and boldly captioned it ‘Pride’. With Barack Obama recently coming out (if you’ll excuse a pun) in support of gay marriage, it seemed only a matter of time that a brand with similar social clout did the same.
But what does this mean for them? This means that they can take back some power. An update such as that allows the brand to see the quality of the fans that are attached to them. Oreo clearly want fans who are open to gay marriage, who aren’t homophobic and aren’t afraid of sexual alternatives. They don’t want to associate with people who have a bigoted attitude toward same-sex relationships, and, as a brand they don’t want to sell their products to people who do.
The update received 207,824 likes, 62,670 shares, 32,729 comments and their Facebook Wall was flooded with well wishers and thanks from existing and new fans alike; many having joined the page simply to thank Oreo for having the courage (as a highly visible brand in social media) to make the statement.
As for those who don’t align themselves with Oreo’s latest statement on gay pride, the update likely resulted in a percentage of fans ‘unliking’ their page. And yet, I believe that’s exactly what they wanted.
By Koby Geddes.