On Wednesday, social media predicted an outcome to the referendum that was uncannily close to the actual result. Since early May, in most UK regions, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, forums and blogs, a consistent support for ‘leave’ wavered in strength, but not in focus.
Social media is the ultimate form of democratic expression. Social media is where you’ll see it first, however raw, badly expressed or emotional the outburst. It might only represent a certain proportion of the population, but it combines big data and fast data with real time evidence of people’s attitudes and intentions. Furthermore this digital advocacy not only reveals intuition and insight, but the all important context that separates a social post from an algorithmic feedback.
Social media has often been accused of pandering to those who shout loudest, most often, while ignoring other elements of society, those shy, silent Conservatives who expressed their opinions on the General Election in the privacy of the polling station, and not in public beforehand. But it became a more representative barometer in a referendum in which businesses, economists, fishermen, farmers, politicians within the right and the left all disagreed, when there were no established party machines manufacturing twitter clouds.
Before social media, research suggests a customer might have shared a good experience with 1-3 people and a bad one with 9-15 people. Today, on average, Facebook users have 350 friends, a Linkedin user might have 50 to 100 connections and we each average about 60 followers on Twitter. Companies invest heavily in mitigating the bad while amplifying the good because social media is integral to the customer experience. It turns people into pamphleteers.
And that is why we have to listen to it, more closely than ever before. We have always enabled our clients to share their surveys socially as an integral part of our feedback, but as the social order around us starts to change in ways we cannot yet foresee, the companies that fuse their customers’ feedback with their social expression will be the ones that stay ahead of fast moving public opinion, that spotlight and evaluate the important trends and reactions, enabling management to pivot as quickly as it needs to.
Social Posts are the modern advocacy, empowering people to express a gut view. They provide real time evidence of people’s intentions. Bob Dylan sensed the public mood in 1964 when he wrote ‘the times they are a changing’. 50 or so years later, CX professionals should head his words.