Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Perils of Ignoring the Conversation

Yesterday I gave a presentation at The Retail Conference about The Importance of Networking to Retail. In the presentation I focused on retailers' use of social media and the importance of engaging with customers who are already talking on the various social networks.

During the morning panel session, the panelists were generally dismissive of the need to embrace sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Representatives from Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason felt that their customers would not be using such media and they would be talking to the wrong people.

I thought I'd have a look to see just how much people are talking about Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason online at the moment. I searched Twitter for conversations about both companies and, as I expected, both were being talked about.

Indeed, thanks to two media stories about them in the last few hours, there were quite a number of comments about Waitrose in the last hour.

A key point of my presentation was that people have always talked about retailers to their friends and family. With the advent of such media, the conversation is now global and an individual's reach is far greater. It's often repeated that bad news spreads more quickly than good and people commonly have gripes about retailers.

I won't deny that there are dangers for big business engaging in social media. But if you're not in the conversation, you can't respond to what is being said about you, good or bad. Retailers can no longer hope that people come to them with their problems. A proactive attempt to join the conversation, engage with their customers and have a say in what is said about them can make all of the difference.

1 comment:

  1. I shop at waitrose sometimes and I think their lack of social media communication is rather incongruous. Their staff in the shop are friendly, so why is their main RSS feed such a cold, drab stream of press releases?

    Compare that with TheCooperative, who are finally getting some clue with facebook groups and twitter accounts, but I worry that their forthcoming "hive" social network will be another "Not Invented Here" walled garden (like the last membership website) instead of a good cooperative social website.