Highest and Best use of Social Media

by francine Hardaway on December 13, 2010

No matter what marketers say, the highest and best use of social media isn’t sales, it is support. I’ve been writing about this from a business perspective for a while now, with the emphasis on supporting, rather than stalking the customer.

Now I have now found an example from my own life of why social media support is so powerful that customers will  pay for it every day of the week. Social media is my version of that old TV commercial “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

For those of you I don’t personally know,  my dog died suddenly over the weekend, and I would have been in a mental institution without the outpouring of support I received from social media friends.

Here is a recap of how that really works:

The dog barked at the mailman and then dropped dead at the front door. I was alone in the house, and I picked up the phone to call a friend, who didn’t answer. I then tweeted the contemporary version of a 911 to my Twitter friends before running across the street to find a neighbor.

Never mind the details of the trip to the vet, the crying, and the responses that followed. Let’s see to what happened to this tweet.

Before I even got to the vet, I had dozens of @replies and DMs consoling me. The messages were from all over the place — close friends and total strangers. We all know what Twitter is the right place to break news, and that’s where I broke the news of Chauncey’s death. Crying in the car, I was almost physically uplifted by the knowledge that people cared enough to reach out. Because of Twitter’s asynchronous following system, many people who offered solace were not (yet) known to me. But now I know them. My business partner and friend made sure to tell them I was grateful. When people reach out, they must be acknowledged.

By the time I got home again, my Tweet had made its way to Facebook, and the Facebook friends were weighing in on my wall. Also my far-flung family. It couldn’t be more comforting. Some people were unbelievable at expressing condolences, and others offered their memories.

Twitter was great for the breaking news, but the wake for the dog really took place on Facebook, where dozens of completely different people weighed in.

And then it became bedtime, and I couldn’t sleep. Not one to watch old movies, I spent the wakeful parts of the night with my old friends Steve Gillmor and Robert Scoble, catching up on missed episodes of  “The Gillmor Gang” streamed over the Ipad resting next to me on the bed where the dog used to take up residence. There were the familiar voices of my friends in the dark, keeping my company.

Supported by social media, I never did feel completely alone.

Imagine if brands did what individuals often do in times of need. Can you imagine the strength of the brand loyalty? It’s about the connection. You make the connection authentically in advance of the need. And then in the moment of need, the connection is stronger than you ever thought it could be.

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