Take a minute to think about the last major change that one of your suppliers made that impacted you. Now, answer this question honestly;

Was this change done 'for you' or 'to you'?

for you or to you

Your answer reveals the strength of your relationship with this vendor company. If you perceive the change was done 'to you', trust is likely strained or non-existent as you feel you have no real control, and there is unlikely to be any loyalty. If on the other hand, you perceive that the change was done 'for you', you typically trust the firm more, and will be much more loyal as you'll perceive more risk in dealing with competitors. As a firm, we would therefore hope that our clients felt a sense of 'for them' versus a sense of 'to them'.

That said, there are techniques by which a company can change people's perceptions re: 'to them' or 'for them'. Fortunately, social media when utilized properly, is one of the best tools possible to help facilitate this transition, and make clients more satisfied, loyal, and more vocal advocates.

Here's the psychology behind using social media to accomplish this transition, and the means in which social media can be utilized;


Psychological Principle #1:

Anytime people are included in devising a solution to a problem, they're much more likely to buy in to that solution since they're at least partly responsible for it, and understand the motivations for the change. Even something as simple as permitting people to participate in the realization of a problem, helps prepare them for the realization that change is needed, and the perception of 'for them' vs 'to them'.

Those not involved directly in the change realization or solution process, are typically anti-change, and suspect the motives for changes. The reason; the change is happening 'to them' not 'for them'. This is a powerful "change" strategy, used by corporations for years to get buy-in from employees when making major changes. Its also a change strategy that should be brought to bear for clients.

The Social Media Solution:
One of the advantages of social media is the possibility of 2-way communication. People can voice their opinions, and companies can respond and interact. Social media can also work the other way ... the firm actively solicits suggestions or improvement ideas from all stakeholders. In merely soliciting and acknowledging such ideas, most consumers or clients will automatically assume that when related changes are made, it was as a result of their input. They do not then view those changes as done 'to them' so long as there is no OBVIOUS negative impact on them.

If they then view those same changes as done 'for them', its much more possible that they'll become a fan or advocate, and actually promote the changes as positive on the blogosphere.


Psychological Principle #2:

People who have a problem, and have that problem addressed or resolved in near real time, will be much more loyal than they ever would have been had they not experienced the problem in the first place. The reasons is simple, the person with the problem has been shown that they are important, and matter to the company. The impact is that there is now a reduced risk of that customer switching to a competitor. The customer now knows worst case scenario with your firm ... quick attempts to resolve the problem. What they don't know, which constitutes additional risk in their mind, is how your competitors would respond to issues. The result, you've caste more doubt on competitors, and increased the risks associated with switching vendors.

    The Social Media Solution:
    Social media again can be used to identify or solicit clients with issues. Listening via Google Alerts, Radian6, and numerous other tools are great means of seeking out those having issues with a company. The intent of finding these individuals this time around is to try to resolve the issues identified as quickly as physically possible. In doing so, and in reaching out to them to let them know you're working on a solution, you begin to transition their thought processes to someone is doing 'for me', rather than 'to me', which will hopefully transition to become 'the company is doing for me'.


    The primary goal of the exercises above are two-fold:

      1. to decrease the likelihood of clients switching to a competitor (ie. increase retention rates) by:

        a. increasing the risks of switching
        b. devising better products/solutions based on client input

      2. to identify and reward company advocates (fans), and help activate those individuals to promote the company's messages (ie secure more business).