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Wow. It has been a while. I have been really busy lately. Beyond busy actually. Teaching, studying, working as a Community Manager….which brings me to the topic of this post. Brand reputation being built by the consumers.  Advertisers are facilitating these conversations in many cases, but really, it is the consumer who is telling fellow consumers whether or not a product or service is worthy. The on-line community that I have been ‘managing’ is Glade, [the fragrance people], and through a bit of Grassroots facilitating [Facebook, Twitter, Review Blogs etc.], the community is growing, people are talking and word is getting out. 

But there is a surprising entry into the world of word of mouth. A bank.  The UK Bank – First Direct – has created a new website that aggregates live comments about the brand from eight million social media sites.

“Our customers are writing about us all over the web and we want to embrace this, so we’re showing customer comments, good and bad, from websites, blogs and forums for everyone to see,” says Lisa Wood, head of marketing at First Direct.

A brave effort. Not all of the comments are positive. It is still a bank after all. This is the first bit of innovation seen in the banking industry in a very long time. By letting consumers know that they are willing to be transparent, to show the good, the bad and the ugly as told by the consumers, they are building trust in an industry that has lost all trust. 

Research conducted by First Direct, indicated that we now trust online strangers to help us make many of our everyday decisions. Consumers are turning to online review websites and comparison sites rather than listening to sales people. 

Graham Jones, an internet psychologist who specialises in the way people use the internet, explains:  “As we become more open, so our expectations change towards the way we communicate with businesses.  This new age of openness demands an honest and transparent approach and the rules of engagement are changing.  The research clearly showed that one of the major drivers for people sharing their opinions online was a feeling of power, of having a voice both to promote good and lambast bad customer experiences.  Businesses need to understand this and adapt accordingly.” 

And more and more businesses are. They have to if they want to compete in the ‘Age of Openness.’ 


 

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