social media

The return of word of mouth

What if we were to stop thinking about social media in terms of likes, followers, pins, re-blogs and ROI $ and instead thought of it as a storytelling tool or a customer service platform?

Thinking of social platforms as a meeting place for like-minded individuals (‘fans’) to discuss their common interests (‘the brand’) enables companies to not only enhance their commitment to each individual customer, but also to inadvertently facilitate the storytelling process. Giving people a place to share their stories not only generates rich brand-inspired conversations, but plays off one of the greatest marketing techniques of all time: word of mouth.

In the age of social media, consumers are the true brand owners; what they have to say about a brand will ultimately shape its reputation both on and offline. A positive review on Amazon or Yelp can be much more influential in determining a brand’s success than any PR or ad campaign. By leveraging their online communities, companies can use this grassroots marketing movement to their advantage.

One company that’s getting this right is Steam Whistle Brewery. I recently had the opportunity to speak with their community manager, Marina Arnaout, about the company’s consumer-centric approach to social media.

Much like their do-one-thing-really-well approach to beer making, using social channels to connect with consumers is a natural extension of the Steam Whistle brand. “For us, social media is about engaging in transparent, two-way conversations with Steam Whistle drinkers. It’s never been about finding a way to put a numerical value on a consumer,” said Marina. “At the core, social media is really about customer service. It’s real-time, it’s constantly on, and it’s definitely the future of our industry,” she added.

This fan-centric approach – focusing on fan engagement levels instead of ROI $ – has helped Steam Whistle cultivate a passionate community of brand ambassadors both on and offline. Want proof? Check out Trip Advisor, where fans of the brewery have ranked it as one of the top ten tourist attractions in Ontario.…