Humanizing the Brand

“I think what’s revolutionary about social media is that it is a medium that talks back,” says Lebrun. “Customers can talk back, which they couldn’t before. Marketers have learned that co-creating values is one aspect, but it is now a dialogue.”

In his interview with Arbitrage, Lebrun mentioned a story involving customer service provided by AOL (America Online). The person involved in the debacle is named Vincent Ferrari. In 2006, Ferrari tried to cancel his account with AOL.

The representative who spoke with him on the phone tried to deflect his request. Eventually the conversation turned to Ferrari repeating, “cancel my account” over and over into the phone. In total, it took him over twenty minutes to close down his account.

Social media is critical in this story. Ferrari posted his story online, and the blogosphere began circulating the information. Soon Ferrari was invited to speak on live television. AOL responded by firing the employee and issuing an apology letter. Customers hold immense power in deciding the fate of a brand, and social media is a key element in the promulgation of information.


How important is culture in social media around the world? Kendal Goodrich and Marieke de Mooij believe it is very important. In their article titled “How ‘social’ are social media? A cross-cultural comparison of online and offline purchase decision influences”, they observe the variety in social media usage around the globe.

“People around the world still need to feel culturally engaged with vendors,” Goodrich and Mooij write. “Or else they will find another place to buy.”

People discuss different things depending on their geographical location. For example, certain global crises are presented in North America, but beyond that, the West is presented with news and entertainment focusing on one’s own environment. The same applies to countries all around the world.

When looking at social media across the world, it is clear that the prominent reason of usage for many websites is to keep in touch with the individuals. It is based on human interactions.

Though Facebook may appear as the most prominent social media site, countries such as China use Facebook less, since they have their own websites. The most popular Chinese social networking website is Qzone, with approximately 712 million users.

This differing use of social media networks is explained by an analysis of the defining characteristics of a culture’s consumerist behaviours.

“In individualistic cultures, information is an all-encompassing need,” Goodrich and Mooij explain. “Whereas in collectivistic and high PDI cultures, trustworthiness and the opinions of others are more important.”

The American Red Cross conducted a survey on the possibility of using social media services during a global crisis. According to an article written by Ya Jin et al., professors from the Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Maryland and Elon University, “69% of adults believe that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites to quickly send help, and 74% expect response agencies to answer social media calls for help within an hour.”

The use of social media by brands to create dialogues with customers and assume a more transparent and honest position has shown desirable results.

“I think the concept of ‘social’ is a differentiating adjective we use […] because ‘social’ is changing everything,” explains Lebrun. “The term is going to fade eventually, not because it’s a fad but because it’s just going to be adopted. Like, who talks about digital phones? We don’t anymore, right, because all the phones are digital. But they’re all digital.”

Translation services in social media will profit from not only making Facebook and Twitter posts available in an efficient language, but will help the social sphere open up to people by humanizing the process of their assistance.

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