We're asking companies to listen and use social media but when they do, we question their motives. Or whether they really care. Or whether they're just responding because someone yelled loud enough or has enough followers. Or whether they're just going through the motions because someone said they should.
What exactly do we want from them?
I, for one, am happy to see businesses that are starting to change the way they do things to meet new customer expectations. That doesn't mean every business can overhaul their customer service in the blink of an eye, or resolve every issue perfectly, or prevent every mistake from happening. And sure, some companies are probably getting involved reluctantly or with some initially misguided intent.
But if we're going to stomp our feet and demand that they pay attention to us and this social media thing, don't we have the responsibility to offer a little bit of acknowledgement - dare I say commendation - when they do? When they try? When they start somewhere?
When I told people I wanted to lose weight and try a new start at fitness, I got lots of cries of support that included "starting is the hardest part!" and "little changes can equal big results" and all that stuff. Everyone encouraged the change and the importance of the effort. No one would ever dream of disparaging me from not being able to run a marathon in the weeks that I start to jog around my block.
But we do that with businesses. All the time.
We're asking them to change, but we're exceedingly unwilling to reward small victories or acknowledge effort. It's all or nothing. The fact that someone responded to a Tweet just means they're scared, not that they might actually be trying to deliver better customer service. If someone comments on a blog post, it must be because they're trying to cover their butt, not because they really are trying to improve their responsiveness and connection with their community.
Heaven forbid a business take a baby step.
I know there are trust issues in business, folks. That's part of why we're all here doing this stuff. But if we're going to be the agents of change, we have to be willing to nurture it, not crush it in it's awkward and sometimes stuttering beginnings.
Go on being a cynic if you like, or always assuming the worst, or refusing to be satisfied with anything other than perfection. I'm going to be over here giving people a chance to do exactly what we're asking of them, and doing my best to reward the small changes along the way.
I'd love to have you with me.