7/5/14 How to Extend Your Customer Experience Through Social Media - Peter Merholz - Harvard Business Review
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How to Extend Your Customer Experience Through Social Mediaby Peter Merholz | 10:23 AM August 24, 2009
Im in Toronto this week on business. Arriving a few days early to play tourist, I tweeted for recommendations for
places to eat and things to do. In the onslaught of responses I got, one friend suggested Mildreds Temple for brunch
(http://twitter.com/michele_perras/statuses/3277800736) . Given the flood of commentary, that would not have stood
out, except that someone from that restaurant thanked my friend for the referral,
(http://twitter.com/mildredstemple/statuses/3315139564) and encouraged my visit. On Sunday, my wife, son, and I had
a delightful meal there, one that would not have happened without social media. And Mildreds got some new
Clearly, thanks to services like Twitter and Facebook, there is now a global conversation. Whats not clear is how
businesses can meaningfully embrace it. How can social media augment, fill out, and improve the customer
1. Only hire people who embody your brand
Its disheartening how typically little regard management has for their staff, as witnessed by their onerous policies and
procedures for appropriate communication. Two companies who lead the way in using social media, Southwest
Airlines and Zappos (disclosure: Zappos is a client of Adaptive Path (http://adaptivepath.com/) ), empower their staff to
engage with social media on the companys behalf. What allows them to be comfortable with this is that both
companies have extremely particular hiring practices
(http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/taylor/2008/05/why_zappos_pays_new_employees.html) that ensure their
employees embrace the companys values.
Whats great about this approach is that you dont need corporate social media policies just let your staff do what
they do. Whats challenging about this approach, at least for other companies, is that most dont hire with same intent
2. If you do need policies, keep them lightweight and human.
Not every company has the luxury of Zappos and Southwest to wholeheartedly trust all staff members to converse with
the public. For those companies, guidelines help staff understand how to appropriately engage. The trick is to write the
guidelines in a straightforward, human manner, and not to overwhelm with corporate- or legal-ese. Intels set of social
media guidelines (http://www.intel.com/sites/sitewide/en_US/social-media.htm) are thorough and clear, and would
probably serve as a great starting point for any organization.
3. Experiment, prototype, pilot try stuff out.
This is good advice for any initiative, social media or otherwise. Not sure how you should best use social media? Try
different things. Join Twitter and start talking. Put up a page on Facebook and see what happens. Launch a small
community on your website, and see if people gravitate toward it. For each of these activities, make sure youve
devoted the time and effort that will allow it to succeed dont assume that because people dont immediately flock to
the initiative, its a failure (or, even worse, that engaging in social media is thus not worth the trouble). Evolve your
efforts and see what sticks. ENGAGEMENTdb published a report (http://www.engagementdb.com/Report) of the
brands leading in social media, and Starbucks came out ahead, notably for their willingness to try a lot of different
things, some of which have succeeded beyond expectations (most notably with My Starbucks Idea
(http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ideaHome) , capturing customers love for the brand and transforming that energy
into smart new initiatives).