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Friending The Social Consumer

2 minute read | June 2010

With a focus on how brands can listen and learn, Pete Blackshaw (@pblackshaw), EVP of Digital Strategic Services for Nielsen led a Consumer 360 insight session on the rapidly changing social media landscape (“some of these slides should have been updated even this morning,” Pete quipped). Joining Pete was Yael Taqqu, Principal at McKinsey & Co., and Frank Eliason, Senior Director of Comcast’s customer service via Twitter (@comcastcares).

All three participants couldn’t stress strongly enough that the social landscape has changed and that the relationship between brands and consumer has been flipped on its head because of the way consumers connect. So much influence (and insight) is now in the hands (and tweets, posts, votes and updates) of the consumer. “Consumers expect brands to be listening,” said Blackshaw. “It’s a no-blink environment for brands.” Consumers aren’t always paying attention to your marketing message, warned Taqqu, but they are paying attention to each other. Brand loyalty is in no way a lock for today’s consumer who is constantly reevaluating brands.


The power and appeal of social media is not just hype. The facts bear it out. After friends and family, the number one driver for brand trust is online reviews and feedback from the social media space. If brands believe that trust is central to their message and their marketing, then social networks must be part of the ROI equation. Eliason notes the immediacy of response can be not only a huge credibility and trust builder with customers, it can also help the bottom line. He said a when customer tweets about a station outage, it saves Comcast considerable time and money in its response effort because information was received in real time.

Fast Facts

  • More than 40% of consumers go online to check reviews and consumer feedback before purchasing consumer electronics.
  • 60% of those going online have visited a social network, with half going back everyday according to Facebook.
  • 23% of social network users expect companies to listen and respond to what is said online

The Big Question

A conference attendee asked if brands were alienating their older customers by focusing on Twitter, or blogs. Comcast’s Eliason stressed the importance of meeting the customer where they are. It’s critical that brands have multiple channels to allow feedback. While Twitter customer service is hot right now, traditional surveys, call centers and focus groups aren’t going away. Just like every social media space is different, every interaction point is different, so brands need to rethink and expand all their customer touchpoints.

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