Those who’ve heard us speak at conferences will know we use the concept of ‘brand autism’ to paint a picture of the inability of many brands and businesses to put themselves in their customers’ shoes (clinically, autism is precisely this inability to see the world from the other’s perspective, a compromised theory of mind) (of course brands are not literally autistic, a very real and debilitating condition not to be trivialised)).  For example, a Bain research study found that 70% of CEOs believe their business delivers a superior customer experience, only 7% of their customers agree.

In the context of social media, brand autism is as rampant as in the boardroom, and this is highlighted in a new report from IBM “From social media to Social CRM: What Customers Want”  The study, by Carolyn Heller Baird and Gautam Parasnis, conducted on the back of the finding that customer closeness is new the top priority for CEOs, shows a complete perception gap between businesses and why think people connect with them on social media, and why people actually do connect with them on social media (see chart).  Businesses think people least connect for deals and to purchase, whereas people most connect for deals and purchase.  Engagement gurus, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Perception versus reality

[blockquote]”Sixty-five percent of businesses view social media as a new source for revenue but, at the same time, many believe receiving discounts or coupons and purchasing products or services are among the least likely reasons a customer would seek them out on social sites. Ironically, though, consumers say getting tangible value is the top reason they interact with a company, which is good news for those organizations hoping to monetize social media”[/blockquote]

Carolyn Heller Baird and Gautam Parasnis

[click for enlargeable/downloadable image]

So all’s cool for social commerce right? At least brands doing social commerce are giving people what they want – the ability to buy on social media. None of that engagement nonsense.

Wrong. Customers connecting with you on social media should be about shopping AND deals.  Just throwing up a Facebook store won’t cut the mustard – you need to offer fan pricing too. While the discount – fan-pricing – is the obvious way to do this, and there is good reason to offer your fans (promoters) your best prices (because they are effectively your volunteer salesforce), it’s controversial from a brand perspective (a brand after-all is simply your ability to extract margin with a trademark), we think Facebook fan stores, offering fan-first offers (get it before others) and fan-exclusive offers (fan only merchandise) are viable alternatives.

Facebook Fan stores

  • Fan-first offers (get it before others)
  • Fan-exclusive offers (fan only merchandise)
  • Fan-pricing (special mates-rate discount)

More broadly, we think that social commerce in the absence of CRM is about as useful as a pair of fetid dingos kidneys – social commerce is more about managing customer relationships – with exclusive shopping and deals (not a barrage of self-congratularoy wall posts and ads), than a pure sales channel. Which is why, in our opinion, creating full-stores (jcpenney/ASOS) on Facebook miss the point – fan-stores – offering fan-first/fan-only exclusives, not full stores are the future of f-commerce.  What do you think?