Using Social for Customer Utility

Consumers are hackers. They want the best product for the best price, and they have the tools to do that. Businesses can either fight the trend (unsuccessfully) or embrace empowered consumers by creating marketing that doubles as a service or utility.

Marketers talk about building “relationships” with consumers, but as Adam Kmiec points out, consumer relationships are few and far between. Consumers want comfort and ease. Marketers that can connect them to those wants will evolve their role in the lives of their customers from being supply depots to being partners that enhance their lives. It might not be a ‘relationship,’ but it does elevate the brand in the eyes of the customer.

Social Helps Our Roles Evolve

Marketers can go in several directions to provide customers utility, such as Charmin creating an app to find the nearest restroom or Amazon’s price checker tool.

There are also simpler ways, and one of the simplest executions of this idea comes in the form of brand content and whether or not it provides value by entertaining an audience, teaching them something or both.

Then there’s social data. Consumers are creating an incredible amount of social signals that marketers are only starting to understand and leverage. That data could be just as useful for consumers by incorporating ratings and reviews into websites or going beyond that like Brazil retailer C&A did by incorporating ‘likes’ on store clothing or KLM who uses social data to make airline seating better. Researchers are even using social data to identify where people are getting the flu.

Brands have the ability to be viewed as “experts” in their respective categories, but too often we’re focused on how a consumer can benefit us, instead of how we can benefit them. In a consumer culture driven by information, we can either be with them or against them. This shift isn’t easy, but marketers who act will find themselves playing a more important role in their customers’ lives than those who don’t.