The internet has given retailers a fantastic opportunity to build a stronger connection with their customers. Many retailers, for example, have loyalty cards and mailing lists and are now looking for ways to build communities on social networks using services like Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes, retailers are failing because they are still stuck in the mindset of pushing out marketing messages to their customers instead of trying to engage them in conversation. Social media is not always optimized for group discussions, though. For example, Twitter has character limits and Facebook lacks an ability of discovery/search for new members to join a conversation. In short, to truly build a community around your brand, it requires a three-way conversation: customer to brand, brand to customer, and customer to customer.
Below are just some real life examples where a vibrant customer community could have been more useful to customers when social media failed.
Costco & Facebook
The situation: Costco shares a Holiday promo. The next day a customer asks an off-topic question. There is no clear way for this user to ask such a question on a Facebook page. Two days later a Costco representative answers.
Community solution: In a forum, they could have a category for members looking for products, and other members would be able to jump in rather than have a dedicated Costco team member scanning the page looking to help.
Sears & YouTube
The situation: Craftsman (Sears) puts out a video on how to change the belts on a snowblower. The problem however, is that this is a new model. Most Crafstman blowers that are old enough to need this kind of repair have a different design and this video is not helpful. Also no answer from any Sears representatives even 11 months later.
Community solution: The problem with YouTube is the lack of 'regulars' or other customers hanging around. Adding a link to a support in the description would offer a place for customers to congregate, and maybe assist these uses with older blowers and guide them on repair steps.
Walmart & Google+
The situation: Walmart puts out a delicious recipe on Google+. Three weeks later Walmart responds to a user who made a comment about how tasty it was, deals with an issue about an oil change and ignores a user asking for recall info.
Community solution: Google+ Page comments are suboptimal for having a discussion. In a community a user can post in the appropriate category. Community members will get feedback from other community members, and company representatives can address issues more effectively (or in the very least move comments to the right section).
As you can see, a support community can offer an extra dimension in assisting customers beyond social media. Have you seen a social media fail? Share it in the comments for when we compile a future edition.
Vanilla Forums offers a cloud based solution that can work in conjunction with your current social media presence to offer a complete customer support solution. Try Vanilla Forums Cloud Solution free for 30-days.