It’s time to stop growing bigger ears and start growing bigger hands

Chris Brogan coined the phrase “grow bigger ears” and for the past two years or so, as brands got comfortable with social media, it was more important for them to listen more than it was to jump out and converse with us. For those brands that got social media early on, they are already listening in more places and with larger ears than their customers are probably comfortable with. For brands that are just starting out on the social media path, start running; you’re already behind.

But it might be time to stop growing bigger ears and start growing bigger hands. It might be time for brands to start integrating social media within their operations and not just their marketing or customer experience departments. We don’t really want brands to “converse” with us; just do for us.

What do I mean by this? A couple of examples.

CPG Brands at Retail
Many brands pay merchandising service organizations to go into retailers and perform audits, new product cut-in, restocking, point-of-purchase placement, etc. What if one of the point of purchase placards just had a @twitter address and said something like: “Tweet you are here, take a picture of the 8oz bottles of BrandX and get a coupon for a buy one/get one free.” How many time-stamped, geo-tagged photos and fan tweets do you think that CPG brand would get? Would this create more demand for at retail service due to an increased turn on the product? Maybe, but until someone tries it, we’ll never know.

Pizza
On Tuesday afternoon, about 4:00pm, Papa Johns sent out a tweet something like “Hungry? Order a Papa John’s pizza.” Oh, man was I ever. It was a long day and I did not have time to eat. So, I clicked on the link. Bang, right to the front page. So, from there, I had to log in.. can’t remember my password… looked it up.. got to the order page, had to decide… oh, y’know what, I’m just not that hungry.

What Papa John’s could be doing is give me the option to save a Twitter preference. Next time they send me a tweet, all I have to do is reply to it and my preferred pizza has been ordered, paid for with my save credit card, in the oven and on it’s way to my front door; all just by replying to the tweet. (I know, there are some issues with privacy/security and such, but maybe they could send me a DM or an email confirming I did indeed reply to and order a pizza.)

What’s missing in social media right now is that last ten yards of connection to the customer. Sure the smart brands are listening with big ears but until they start growing bigger hands and integrate social media into their operations, social media will be the stuff of late night jokes and CNN scare stories instead of Harvard Business School case studies.

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