“Dan the Man” gained notoriety earlier this year when a series of refreshingly candid Facebook posts responding to provocative and racist comments were publicized in the media. The comments were posted when Dan De Sousa was employed as the Facebook Community Manager at Optus, and are part of a growing phenomenon as businesses turn to social media in an attempt to increase consumer engagement through blogs.
Dan’s “The Man!”
The notoriety began when Dan responded to a customer who expressed outrage at the presence of a “Muslim-only” sign at the Casula Mall store, referring to a sign written in Arabic to inform Arabic speaking customers that a staff member at the store could assist them in their native language.
Dan was quick to act; diffusing the situation whilst maintaining his composure to provide an informative and compassionate response, drawing praise from consumers and the media alike. Whilst this was the first of many articulate and honest responses from Dan, his continued approach to address potentially inflammatory comments was a prime example of a business successfully using blogs to promote consumer engagement, and gaining Dan a cult following in the process.
Why engage the consumer?
Given that the marketing discipline has evolved from one which is focused on promoting a product or service to focusing on promoting a feeling, obtaining consumer engagement, which stems from active interaction and involvement between the customer and the focal agent, is what drives brand loyalty (Brodie et al, 2011). When loyal, a customer is a guaranteed source of revenue, they are likely to repeat purchase, and they are also more likely to aid in sales growth via means of recommendations (Verma, 2014).
Blogging for engagement.
An increasing number of businesses are turning to social media in an attempt to promote a higher level of connection with customers, finding that blogging aids consumer engagement by helping “humanise a faceless business, and give customers insight into a company,” (p.288, Singh et al., 2008).
Characterised as a collective conversation featured on a web site (Marken, 2005), a blog is a useful tool in enabling businesses to convey messages in more approachable, friendly ways, which are perceived to be less self-serving than traditional communication methods (Miller, 2008). Adoption of this more approachable style is important given that the majority of consumers (70%) would prefer not to receive marketing communications at all (Singh et al., 2008).
However, as indicated by Dan’s success, when a consumer is able to dictate the terms of the message delivery and actively participate in conversation with a company, as consumers did on Optus’ Facebook page, they are more likely to respond favourably to communications coming from the business (Singh et al., 2008). Moreover, the provision of Dan’s timely and honest responses reassured the consumer that the blog was a functioning interactive medium, making the consumer feel that their feedback was appreciated and valued, promoting engagement (Verma, 2014).
According to Kaplan & Haenlein (2011), blogging can aid consumer engagement at each stage of the purchase process:
- At the pre-purchase phase it can serve as a market research tool; providing customer feedback which can be analysed for developing products and creating marketing campaigns.
- It promotes brand awareness during the purchase phase by enabling advertising and brand-reinforcing messages to be widely shared; the communication of special “Web-only” sales discounts via a business’ Facebook page is an example of this.
- Post-purchase blogs are invaluable in providing customer service and complaint management; much like Dan’s series of posts responding to disgruntled Optus customers.
When blogs go bad.
Whilst blogging can prove to be a valuable tool in promoting consumer engagement, it can just as easily turn bad for a business if not properly managed.
Take a recent example where a Telstra customer complained about his services being down and without an estimated fix date; Telstra respondents referred to him incorrectly on two occasions (his name was Jaime, not James or Jamie), proved to be unhelpful – asking the customer to call them once his services had been re-established to discuss his initial request for compensation, and then attempted to rectify the double-name faux pas by offering up a lame cat meme! Needless to say, the consumer was less than impressed, stating that the cat meme made him feel like “I was being mocked and that they must have a work experience kid answering Facebook posts for the day.”
A word from the Oracle…
“As old industry wisdom dictates, there is nothing better to create a loyal client than an efficiently-managed customer complaint,” (p.109, Kaplan & Haenlein, 2011), and Telstra’s absence of an honest response, combined with the condescending nature of the reply defied the rules of consumer engagement.
It seems as though not every business has a “Dan the Man” to save the day.
Blackwell, E. (2016). Why Everyone Is Talking About Dan From Optus, Huffington Post, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/01/06/why-everyone-is-talking-about-dan-from-optus/
Bogle, A. (2016). How one man went from viral sensation to Slack employee, Mashable, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://mashable.com/2016/05/22/dan-from-optus-slack/
Brodie, R. J., Hollebeek, L. D., Juric, B., & Ilic, A. (2011), ‘Customer engagement: Conceptual domain, fundamental propositions, and implications for research in service marketing’, Journal of Service Research, 14, 3, pp.252-271.
Carmody, B. (2016). Telstra’s Facebook faux pas: Why you shouldn’t respond to angry customers with a cat meme, Smart Company, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://www.smartcompany.com.au/marketing/62831-telstras-facebook-faux-pas-why-you-shouldnt-respond-to-angry-customers-with-a-cat-meme/
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2011), ‘The early bird catches the news: Nine things you should know about micro-blogging’, Business Horizons, 54, pp.105-113.
Marken, G. (2005), ‘To blog or not to blog, that is the question?’, Public Relations Quarterly, 50, 3, pp.31-33.
Mashable, (2016). ‘Dan the Man: Saving the world, one blog at a time‘, photograph, Mashable, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://mashable.com/2016/05/22/dan-from-optus-slack/
Miller, V. (2008), ‘Blogging for bucks’, Las Vegas Business Press, 25, 34, pp,6-9.
News.com.au. (2016). ‘Dan’s THE man: Consumer engagement at its best’, photograph, News.com.au, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/dan-the-optus-facebook-community-manager-everyone-is-talking-about/news-story/25a9a196c75c77160de40659d032568a
Rao, S. (2016). Dan the Optus Facebook community manager everyone is talking about, News.com.au, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/dan-the-optus-facebook-community-manager-everyone-is-talking-about/news-story/25a9a196c75c77160de40659d032568a
Singh, T., Veron-Jackson, L., & Cullinane, J. (2008), ‘Blogging: A new play in your marketing game plan’, Business Horizons, 51, pp.281-292.
Smart Company, (2016). ‘The infamous Cat meme…’, photograph, Smart Company, retrieved 27 July 2016, http://www.smartcompany.com.au/marketing/62831-telstras-facebook-faux-pas-why-you-shouldnt-respond-to-angry-customers-with-a-cat-meme/
Verma, S. (2014), ‘Online customer engagement through Blogs in India’, Journal of Internet Commerce, 13, pp.282-301.