With social media your customers have never had more clout than they do today when it comes to airing their grievances. It’s not like in the old days, of say the 1990s, when they might have told a half dozen people how upset they are. Now they can vent a spleen on Facebook, rant on Twitter and yell for help on Yelp. They can upload a photo onto Instragram before they’ve even left your premises. And those rants can go viral and be seen by hundreds of thousands of customers overnight. Consider how the story of Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” music video complaint touched an estimated 100 million people worldwide.
One social media force that’s also shaking things up is Change.org – a site founded in 2007 that now helps 40 million users create as many as 1,000 petitions a day, offering would be consumer-advocates a highly visible platform for their concerns. The petitions target government agencies, politicians, and increasingly, private companies. Three examples reported in Fast Company magazine: a 2012 campaign launched by 10-year-old Mia Hansen convinced Jamba Juice to replace Styrofoam cups with an environmentally friendlier alternative; 14-year-old Julia Bluhm got Seventeen magazine to stop photoshopping models; 18 year-old Benjamin O’Keefe got himself invited to an executive meeting at Abercrombie and Fitch Retailers to talk about the need to cater to larger clothing sizes.
This raises many interesting questions for companies as technology allows more and more people to have “their sway.” Given the age of these particular “activists” it also raises the question: What are you doing to listen to and anticipate the needs of your next generation of clients and customers? What might you be overlooking that may not be an issue today, but could become tomorrow’s on-line petition?
Michael Kerr, www.HumoratWork.com
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Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics
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