We’re not doing it because it’s easy

March 16, 2009

Recently my buddy Jon Austin started a discussion about his key concern with using social media, specifically Twitter, for business communication: “it doesn’t scale well.”

ClonesThat is — sure, Scott Monty, Ford Motor Company’s in-house social media wizard, can handle most of the interacting and listening and sharing Ford needs right now, but what about the future? But what happens when, as Charlene Li predicts, social networking and digital sharing become nearly ubiquitous and the volume of blog posts and Twitter messages and Facebook groups and YouTube videos becomes far more than Scott Monty — or anyone like him — can handle?

Well, Jon’s right in that this is a big concern. Being a “socially active” company that’s overwhelmed and seemingly unresponsive is almost worse than being socially inactive. Here’s the important part, though: That’s not social media problem. That’s a resources problem.

Of course a single PR person or customer service or social media community manager can’t indefinitely manage every bit of a company’s communication needs. Jane Doe can’t, but Jane Doe’s employer can. It must. At least, it must if it’s committed to serving its customers. The same is true for media relations or product development or building security or custodial services: At a certain point, you need more arms and legs to keep up — especially if you’re finding success and growing.

Eventually, you need more Jane Does. More Scott Montys. Comcast, for example, has a small team fielding customer queries via Twitter. Yes, that’s expensive. Yes, this will create a large, sometimes cumbersonme, certainly imperfect operation¬†(because, after all, people are imperfect), but if providing exceptional customer service is as important as providing an exceptional product or service — and I believe it is — then that’s the price of doing business. And to be clear, “customer service” could mean anything from a product team helping customers with troubleshooting to a PR team working closely with reporters and bloggers to a CFO handling investor relations.

So here’s the challenge: Do you really want to know what your customers think of your products? Do you value their feedback? Will you listen to them the way you want them to listen to you? Are you committed to constantly improving your business?

Then be prepared to invest in what it takes to get ‘er done. This “social media stuff” isn’t a hot topic because it’s easy. It’s a hot topic because it can be powerful. So let’s get to it.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Gessner via Flickr