Net: The fact that 50% of all consumers are engaging with social media, but less than 40% of businesses are doing so means that some companies are leaving their customers exposed to competitor’s initiatives. BMW is one of many examples.
Last fall, I leased a new BMW X3 to replace my old one whose lease was expiring.The replacement X3 did not have the built-in navigation of its predecessor, so I decided to go online to search for a portable unit.First stop was BMW.com, where I expected to find an owners’ community where I would be able to ask others for advice.
When Underwood Partners conducts a Web 2.0 audit for clients, one of the outputs is a “heat map” that visually shows competitive and complimentary companies’ use of social media technology tools. The map is color coded: green represents a highly visible and useful application; yellow represents an application that is either buried deep in the site, poorly marketed or has a confusing user interface; red indicates that either the company is not using the application or we can’t find it. And given the amount of time we spend online, if we can’t find it, we don’t believe customers will either. [Note this graphic was first developed by Max Palmer when we worked together at Social Sphere. Max claims it was called a “Palmer Map.” He’s a great analyst, but not so good on the marketing front!]
If we were doing a Web 2.0 audit of www.BMWUSA.com, the column Customer Forums would clearly be coded red.Although “My Account” has lots of information about how to make payments, pay off my lease early, order a new vehicle, etc., I couldn’t find any place to connect with other customers.So, I logged onto Edmunds.com, one of the pioneers of providing user reviews, customer forums, and other Web 2.0 applications in the automotive space.
On the Edmunds’ site, it was easy to find a BMW X3 Forum in their “Car Space” section where I was able to start an online discussion asking for help with aftermarket navigation systems. But as I was doing so, I noticed that Cadillac ads began appearing on the page. By not investing in Web 2.0 applications like customer forums, BMW literally drove me to a place where I was being served up competitors’ ads.
Some businesses delay developing a Web 2.0 strategy because they are afraid of “losing control” and fear their customers will post negative comments about their products on their own web sites. As this example shows, if you don’t provide an opportunity for customers to talk to you and each others about your products, someone else will. At best, you will have lost an opportunity for customer engagement, research and communication. At worst, you will be giving a third party the opportunity to monetize your customer through selling ads to a competitor. Which, at the end of the day, could ultimately cost you the customer’s business.