The Original Social Media Object

Last weekend I drove from Lubbock TX to my hometown Clovis. (Lubbock has the nearest airport.) Passing through Sudan TX on Highway 84, I noticed the above scene, so I had to stop and shoot a pic of it for you on the way back.  Who knows how long this sign/scene has been there.  Who knows how many thousand people a month see this sign and make a mental note RE Progressive Insurance’s brand. 

This is an example of the original form of social media: Staged protest. In this case, the property owner has likely had a bad claims experience with Progressive.  He’s using his platform (land, sign-making abilities and a hideously wrecked vehicle) to influence others in society — in this case not to do business with Progressive. 

Social media can help people express their support of or hatred for a brand.  We write Amazon or Yelp reviews.  We create viral videos (United Breaks Guitars).  We twitter or rave/moan on Facebook. In the past, we created websites or sent emails to our friends. Go a little further back and you’ll find the original social media object: A sign.  It could be a small sign, like a bumper sticker.  It could be a medium sign like a T-Shirt or yard-sign.  OR, like the one above, it could be a massive display on the side of a major road. 

I work with several leading brands on how to listen to social media to discover detractors, especially those with a powerful platform (size/telepresence).  You can tweak Tweetdeck or Twitgrid to setup listening posts for social media chatter. Via Google or Yahoo, you can set email alerts for website or blog mentions of a brand or any set of customer experience terms.  By monitoring the social conversation, you can engage with detractors and mitigate damage to your brand.  

How can Progressive find this one?  I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’s snapped a pick of this scene. Perhaps photo sharing sites already host one. This means that email alerts should include text, audio, pictures or video– not just text. 

Takeaway: Every company should listen for detractors (and if you have time, raving fans). Engage them all with empathy and authenticity. Be sophisticated in how you setup your listening stations and remember that only a fraction of customer feelings are shared on the web. In the end, each day that this scene stays up is MONEY for its competitors in the insurance world. 

As Chistropher Locke and his gang of futurists wrote in The Cluetrain Manifesto
Markets are conversations. 

Contact me if you’d like info on how your company can listen better