Are you (all) paying attention?


On a recent trip to SAS, Paul Greenberg shared his thoughts and ideas about marketing and social media. He pointed out that the rise of social media is not simply a change in how we do business; it signals a deeper transformation in how humans communicate online.

Paul cited examples, some real-time, of companies that have suffered the negative impacts of this communication transformation. In each example, something was going wrong. And in each case, the “going wrong” quickly escalated into a proverbial “PR nightmare,” when the company reacted either too slowly, or in a way that was out of alignment with expectations, as might happen if a company—having built their brand as a quality leader—reacted obstinately to a quality problem.

This is a lesson so basic it's way before marketing 101: pay attention, or else. Communicating a brand promise is meaningless if you fail to deliver on that promise. Yet the people communicating and the people delivering live in different worlds, or at least different organizations. Effective brand strategists know that aligning what you say with what you do is Job 1. Marketing, with all its knowledge about customer needs and wants, has to be in step with operations, with all its knowledge of how and when to get things done.

Social Media has a way of seeking out and magnifying any saying/doing contradictions, so internal alignment is ever more important. If you say you’re a quality leader but act like a value leader, social media will find you. Or, more precisely, it will enable crowds of current and potential customers to highlight the contradiction, with rapid speed, in a very public way. Of course this is the beginning of a downward spiral leading to apologies, recalls, or worse. So, what to do?

Focus outside and inside. Listen to everyone, on every (relevant) social media network, everyday. Then, share the meaningful bits of what you hear across the company, to everyone who touches a customer, and to everyone who could benefit from a better understanding of customer sentiment. Then act. Immediately, as best you can, in accordance with your values as a company.

Additional thoughts about branding can be read in a great Editor’s Letter published in the May, 2010 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. This letter, written by VF’s Editor Graydon Carter, is titled “And the Brands Played On.” In it, Graydon examines how both corporate and personal brands have suffered of late. He doesn’t explicitly mention social media, but consider the points he raises in light of Paul Greenberg’s thoughts, concerning social media signaling a change in how we communicate. We’ve all come to expect the ability to interact, and increasingly we’re all coming to expect transparency, accountability and relevancy from the brands we relate to.

And you – are you paying attention? Do you agree? What do you think?


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


  1. Ken Chadwick on

    We are a small pest control company based in the UK and have had great success using social media and the internet generally to the point where we have almost ceased traditional paid-for paper based advertising.

  2. I wasn't paying attention to social media until I started a business of my own. I really didn't recognize the importance of this, and how much it can affect the level of business growth you attain. I am still trying to understand its significance to my business as a whole. This article helps somewhat. I don't even question it anymore, I just use it, and watch for the results.

  3. Styler Jones on

    If we ignore social media, I think we will be on the losing side of things. I think you brought up a good point... that it is branding you are going after. Social media allows you to brand your company name and business in a more personal way that allows people to interact with you. And it sort of personalizes the entire image as well. Thanks for the post.

  4. I think it's about more than just quality and "alignment", it's about integrity and honesty. In the past, many have said that integrity was "the way you act when you think nobody is looking". Today, somebody is looking all the time. You cannot hide problems with quality or "failures to communicate" within the internal structure of the organization. Everything is out in the open all the time. Responses must be honest and timely or situations will escalate out of control in "e-seconds".

  5. Pingback: Paying Attention to Customers - Customer Analytics

  6. Pingback: SAS at NRF: What’s in it for Marketers? - Customer Analytics

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