Missed Opportunities

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There are no absolutes. There are no hard and fast rules.

The truth is that Marketing is changing, shifting and adapting. A lot of those changes have to do with Social Media, but not all of them. Prior to Social Media, we still had people connecting and sharing ideas (online and otherwise). The platforms and channels continue to evolve and what works for one brand may not be the right solution for another brand. You’ll also note that there are a plethora of online pundits who are quick to distill the "rules of engagement" which are, ultimately, personal rules that worked for them (your mileage may vary).

You are doing it wrong.

I’m frequently asked by brands if what they’re doing in these digital channels is "wrong". The phrasing of the question is off. The question (really) is: "am I optimizing this experience for the consumers that are doing their best to connect with us?" At that point, it’s not about being wrong… it’s about missed opportunities.

What are some of the more common missed opportunities?

  • Not even knowing that someone is talking about you. Whether you’re using a more complex Social Media monitoring tool like Radian6 or Sysomos or using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, there really is no excuse not to know what people are saying, where they’re saying it, how much of a network they’re connected to, and what the overall sentiment is.
  • Not sending a simple, "thank you." You don’t have to become their friends, they don’t have to like you on Facebook, and there’s no need to sign them up to your email blast. A simple "thank you" goes a long way and (for most) it’s more than enough. Let the consumer choose if they would like more engagement and communication.
  • Not responding back to someone on their Facebook page. Brands love their corporate Facebook pages. They tend to leave nice messages to those who have connected with them… on their page. Why don’t more brands head over to the individual’s page and thank them there? The navel-gazing desire to have everyone connect to the brand on their own page (and nowhere else) creates a feeling of, "build it and they will come."
  • Not engaging in the comments on someone else’s Blog. This is tied into the previous point. There are countless Blogs where individuals are talking about a brand or the industry that the brand serves. More often than not, you’ll see that many of these brands have fairly active corporate Blogs, but those Bloggers spend zero time in the community. The expectation is that people will come to them (their Blog) or they simply don’t have the time or desire to be truly active within the community – beyond their own garden.
  • Not helping people out when you know they won’t buy from you. Jeffrey Gitomer (author of the best-selling business books, The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling and the other Little Book… series) was recently speaking to a group of mortgage providers and this is what he told them to say to prospective clients if they wanted to up their game and increase their sales: "I am going to find you the best mortgage possible… even if that means you will be buying it from someone else." There are too many brands who only respond to direct inquiries or those of their direct competitors, and not enough time helping those who have questions and needs about the industry they serve.
  • Not asking for permission to connect to someone. Just because someone leaves a comment, friends you, likes you, gives you a thumb’s up or whatever, it does not mean that they want to be a part of your community or have a desire for more engagement. A simple, "would you mind if we stay connected?" will go a long way. It’s a sign of a respect to your consumer and their attention. Beyond that, it’s also a sign of submission… and this is powerful. Allow the consumer to control the level of engagement and connectedness. If you start the engagement from that point (with them leading charge and giving permission), you’ll never fall into their spam filter (literally and figuratively).

Be of service. Don’t be self-serving.

The brands that are of service to their consumers (and their potential clientele) are the brands who win (in the long term… not the short term). The brands who use these digital channels in a self-serving way are the ones who may be gaining friends and followers now, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of both longevity and loyalty in the long run.

Too many brands are missing too many opportunities. What are some of the other, obvious, missed opportunities that you see brands making?


  1. Excellent post.
    A few more missed opportunities:
    * Having a “no comments” blog policy
    * Removing negative comments from your blog/forum/FB page
    * Jumping at people with your sales pitches before you have established a connection/relationship/trust
    Just as most of the points you have mentioned, these three can summed up in “treating Internet as one-way channel” (something it will no longer be!)

  2. “There are no absolutes.” Unfortunately some of these self-serving corporations think contrary to that statement. Their actions, or inactions, demonstrate a culture of arrogance by ignoring social media and its feedback.

  3. Connecting to people in their ‘native’ language through Social media is a major opportunity that should not be overlooked. Brands have been offering their website in a variety of languages for some time. The arguments that propelled this ‘translation’ movement are just as valid for Social media.
    International brands need to invest in communicating with consumers in more than 1 language. This means being able to monitor your brand and answer questions in more than 1 language.

  4. Interesting post and the “asking to connect” recommendations strikes me as the one that is most often overlooked. I’ll certainly keep it in mind moving forward. I think it’s also important for consumers (who now play a different role in the “experience”) to take some time and thank the committed vendors within their community. As Mr. Prussakov points out, it’s a two way conversation which means “thank you’s” work both ways.
    Finally, I wanted to say thank you for recommending Art and Copy, an incredible piece.

  5. The biggest missed opportunity is not participating at all in digital channels.
    For many the decision is to remain on the sidelines even in an era when almost every business has an opportunity to publish useful content and engage with its customers at a relatively low, initial cost.
    The decision not to participate is a shame especially if inaction is driven by fear of losing control of the marketing message. Maybe, this particular corporate segment should finally acknowledge it never controlled the marketing message in the first place. We as consumers just chose to ignore that message if it didn’t resonate with us.
    And that indifference should never be confused with an ability to control the consumer.

  6. I love your idea of answering people on their Facebook page, it’s brilliant! This is what I will do starting today.
    Thanks a lot for making me (us) look smarter.

  7. Thank you for another thought provoking post. It would be great if brands could give updates on the different ways they accept and own customer feedback. Perhaps give an overview on upcoming changes, invite the feedback giving customer to the office to see processes up close and personal. I loved what Papa John’s did this year to crowdsource new recipe formulations for their product. The contest winner came to the Papa John’s HQ and interacted with employees, etc.

  8. I really enjoyed the insight of this last post – delving into our behavioral patterns. We often gasp and wonder why there is limited engagement in our own corporate blogs when we are not active parts of our own community – sphere.

  9. These are some great points that will help any business if they take the advice. ‘Common sense’ really doesn’t apply to the ignorance that exists in social media — its still pretty new, and many corps/people just don’t understand the human side of it… However, you can’t miss the mark too far if you just adhere to your last bit of advice: Be of service – Don’t be self-serving. Overall, some great insight here Mitch – thanks!

  10. What I notice is that social media allows for so many opportunities that people often *choose* not to take, like the ones you describe.
    It’s so obvious that all of them are completely valuable and often underrated, especially when you mention helping someone that you know won’t buy from you. Of course we all need a paycheck in the end, but it’s also time to realize that a kind act goes a long way, especially now that you have so many chances to make it resonate and bring value to your brand, anyway.

  11. You really nailed it. It is about taking the “self” out of self-serving and simply serving. Like so many things, the gift is in the giving.

  12. Another great post, Mitch. I agree that just creating content and saying “if we create it people will come” is a huge mistake. Those people are missing the whole point of social media and they’re just being media.
    I create content for both myself and my work, but I don’t just assume that people will find it (in fact, in most cases people don’t find my personal stuff). But, I’ve still built up a community of great friends and advocates by reaching out to people and communicating to them about their content or anything in general. People are generally social by nature and by giving them the opportunity to be so by making the first step yourself you can greatly help them to be.
    I think you make a great point that companies, people and any brand that just creates content and steps back is missing out on so many opportunities. They should be connecting with people who create similar content or people who create content their interested in.
    I don’t know how many times I can say it, but being social is the part that really makes social media work.
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  13. Mitch, this is a much-needed point.
    After spending months as a strategic social media consultant for small and medium sized organizations, the potential was usually high when the strategies would fall flat on their faces because a lack of following any or all of the above principles you’ve laid out.
    The reality is that companies are still in the older frame of mind…. They want to push out commercials on TV and the radio and even online, and let that be the end of it. The realization that its a time-intensive process to build and maintain communities is what has led to companies like mine, Soshal Group, to exist, be relevant, and be very impactful for our clients.
    Content creation is important. So is content distribution. But until the engagement variable is solved, the equation will never yield a concrete result.
    In fear of rehashing what others have said, Sheldon (40deuce) hit it on its head. Be Social (or as we tell our potential clients to do: Get Soshal)

  14. Thanks for the (as ever, uncommon) common sense in this post. Be polite, helpful, respectful and smart in your online social interactions, just as you’d be in your offline social interactions. The real problem seems to be in determining exactly what that means – eg respond on your Facebook page or the commenters?

  15. Thanks for this post Mitch and the mention, the comments here are awesome! Many are missing the boat waiting for the proof before they jump in. It really is about creating value for your community through content and conversation. Here’s to limiting those missed opportunities! Thanks again.
    Cory Hartlen
    Community Manager, Radian6

  16. Re: Even if they won’t buy from you…..
    There is another side to this…I teach a class at the local college on how to build a internet based business. Twice now, I had students who I knew it was not possible to help. I told them that policy would not allow me not to accept them into the class but most likely a website would not do what they wanted and would not produce any ROI.
    This resulted in getting several referrals who came to check out the class from these who I turned down.
    As Bert Decker says, people buy on emotion and rationalize on logic. It was hard to convince them but in the end, it paid off beyond avoiding dissatisfied students. It brought in more customers.

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