Customer Portfolios' Blog

Highs and Lows of Using Technology to Drive Customer Engagement

Businesses that are looking to grow sometimes fall victim to chasing the next bright, shiny object. It is easy to see the appeal. These emerging technologies have the potential to be the next great platform and as early adopters, brands can position themselves as innovate leaders in their desired space.

Beyond innovation, these platforms can give brands yet another engagement tool to help build and sustain customer relationships. Yet, when used improperly, these tools can strain customer engagement and end up hurting the reputation of the brand that is using the platform AND the reputation of the platform itself.

An example of this would be Madonna’s failed usage of the live video streaming social platform, Meerkat. In early 2015, Meerkat quickly rose to popularity on Twitter during the South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Meerkat has sustained its popularity with celebrities and other high profile users.

Trying to capitalize on the “it” social network of the moment, Madonna decided to use the social network to premier her Ghosttown music video. Unfortunately, for those who attended the viewing it was nothing more than as the song title describes – a ghosttown. Users were either fed an error message or saw nothing at all.

Meerkat is just the latest social network exploring new ways to distribute music in the age of streaming, and sharing. However, in the aftermath of it’s first major flop, both the social network and brand of Madonna are forced to do damage control.

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What went wrong? So very much. For starters, the technology failed. Those who attempted to watch the video found a 500 error message in its place. Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin said that were no scalability issue and Madonna’s camp responded by saying the video would premier the same time, the same place the following day. Madonna and the social network spurred fan engagement by failing to acknowledge what transpired and failing to address how they would right the issues those fans encountered with the failed launch. Not only did Meerkat and Madonna create a poor user experience but did not give fans a reason to reengage with either brand the following day.

What could have been? Madonna could have used the latest in social technology to connect with a younger fan base. By being an early adopter, she would have been able give her new and existing fans content in an exciting, new manner that had never been done before. In addition to premiering the video, she could have also hosted a Twitter Chat and used other web 2.0 technologies to create a holistic, digital launch experience. By being able to uniquely connect with her fans, this would enable the Queen of Pop to foster brand engagement and in turn, drive record sales.

What does this mean? Does this mean that your brand should shy away from investing in new technology to stimulate customer engagement? Absolutely not. Consider Madonna’s flop as a cautionary tale and a remainder that you should not go blindly into tech adoption. Instead, think about the strategic use of the tool and how it can be integrated into a larger campaign. Pulling on the example above, maybe Meerkat and Madonna could create content for her top fan segment, rewarding them for their loyalty. Maybe they could create content for her prospective or newer fans, in an attempt to introduce her brand or sustain fan engagement.

In short, Meerkat has further reiterated the perils of new adopting and using new technology and tools. Emerging tech should not be treated as a one-off campaign. Rather, it should be fully integrated into a larger lifecycle marketing and promotion campaign. When this happens, it is at this juncture that we see brands using and succeeding at growing engagement via new technology.

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