P2P (people to people) strategy important in age of social media

I teach undergraduate and graduate level university marketing courses. Current textbooks are filled with strategies for B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) applications. But I really think with the evolution of social media and its impact on business, both of these areas have evolved into a P2P (people to people) model.

Why P2P?

People do business with people. They become friends with people. They form an emotional connection with people. Few businesses exist without some personal contact. In the new world of social media, the people who work for you and the people who have bought from you, have a voice.

Yet many businesses are uncertain how to best use social media. They fear exposure. They don’t know how to hand negative comments. They fret about the time spent to manage social media. Their fear is based largely on loosing control.

Let’s take a look at a good and bad example P2P marketing in action in the age of social media.

Dave Carroll is a Canadian musician who had his Taylor guitar damaged beyond repair due to extreme negligence while flying United Airlines. After being given the run around for close to a year, trying to make a claim for replacement against the airline, he took to Youtube. He recorded an entertaining video and catchy tune that told the tale of mistreatment by the airline. It became a viral hit, currently with 11.5 million views worldwide. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
Within 2 days of the video hitting the airwaves, United offered him compensation. But Dave wasn’t finished. He went on to produce a total of 3 videos about how the company handled the exchange. He now makes a living as a musician and speaker advocating for good customer service and educating companies about how to handle social media complaints.

Virginia Sokolloff of Montreal felt she was mistreated by Air Canada when her outbound flight was first canceled, then had her return ticket voided while being issued a new flight. She was forced to buy a new ticket for over $700. The additional $25 baggage charge was the final straw. But instead of taking to the phone, Ms Sokoloff took to Facebook, posting her story not only on her own personal page, but Air Canada’s Facebook page. Within minutes of posting on the airlines wall, a social media representative from the airline contacted her. She was offered a refund for her ticket and a discount on a future booking.

Two airlines and two different outcomes. Company bureaucracy guided one. The other allowed a person to person exchange, and employee empowerment to make a wrong a right. Arguably that should have been done at the ticket counter without having to resort to social media, but at least they got it half right.

Many businesses are still learning about monitoring social media. The leaders will be the ones who empower their employees to make decisions on the spot and treat customers with respect, just like a friend would.

Good relationships are transparent. There is little to hide and each partner responds to the other in a timely manner with attention and respect. And they each realize that all humans have some flaws. It’s what makes them personable.

P2P (people to people) strategy is the new world order. I invite you to pause for a moment and consider the implications for your business. Perhaps you have a story of how social media played a roll dealing with a complaint? We’d love you to share it here!

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