Today’s guest post is by Pat Perdue.

Practically all companies now have Facebook pages, and many have Twitter accounts.

But does simply having a social media presence, even a slick, expensive one, mean that a company is truly social?

While many may tell you that is enough, the answer is much more complex than that.

A truly social company is social from the inside out, rather than outside in.

A social company can withstand the scrutiny of a wider audience into their one-on-one customer interactions, and this scrutiny adds value to the brand by delivering a wider audience.

A recent example of this can be seen from LEGO, which turned a customer service inquiry from a young fan into a social media sensation.

When seven-year-old Luka lost his adored LEGO Jay minifigure he had painstakingly saved his Christmas money to buy (and he carried with him wherever he went), he wrote to Lego to ask for another (after asking his skeptical dad what he should do).

The brilliant customer service reply became a viral, social media hit, and is a textbook example of how a company can be truly social.

LEGO Responds to Luka

Here’s the reply:

Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines three different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: Keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

A Social Company: Bring the Magic

It’s no mystery why this response became a viral sensation. It’s not because they replaced the minifigure, or because they threw in something extra. It’s because this response spoke to the magic that made Luka love his Jay minifigure, and it spoke to the child in all of us.

Like many, before I heard about this story, I didn’t really think that much about LEGO. Now, because of the social media attention this received, I want to go buy some mini-figures myself!

Or to say in marketing language, the customer service response to an inquiry from a lone customer was so perfectly linked to the intangible magic of the brand, it contributed to the its overall marketing message and value.

This response arguably had more “impressions” than many of their ad campaigns.

So how do the rest of us get that magic for our brands?

Here are some things we can learn from LEGO:

  1. Allow your Customer Service Reps to be Authentic
    Clearly, LEGO has a culture where this type of authentic communication is allowed – perhaps trained – in their front line. We can all benefit by ensuring our front line really knows their customers, and understands how to genuinely communicate to them. A canned, pre-written message may save a customer service agent 30 seconds composing an email, but the few minutes taken to compose an authentic response to an authentic inquiry like Luca’s can help foster generations of new customers (you think Luka won’t tell HIS kids about this?). Purely transactional messages can stay transactional, but your agents also need to be able to add the magic when the situation requires.
  2. Think One-to-One First, but Consider a Wider Audience
    How many of your customer care emails would you want to go viral?  (Yeah, I see you wincing all the way from my desk here in Toronto!) What if a percentage of your emails really were “share-worthy,” like this example from LEGO? How cool would it be to regularly mine your most brilliant email messages and put them out there for the social media world to evaluate? Doing so is a big step forward in making your company truly social from the inside out.
  3. Be in it for the Long Haul
    This isn’t a simple fix. Creating a culture that sees customer service, loyalty, and authenticity as central pieces of the puzzle isn’t easy. This requires preparing for a long-term investment. If an organization isn’t committed to becoming a true social business, it will just be another company that is good on Twitter, and has yet another Facebook page. Oh, and if you’re looking for an example of how this can pay off, recall Zappos took this approach, and that’s why Amazon paid nearly a billion dollars for them.

LEGO is a huge, multi-national company, but what they’ve taught us about interaction, engagement, and authenticity can be applied to your company, regardless of size. Take the challenge and become a truly social company be emulating what they’ve done. It will pay off in ways that will surprise you.

What are some of the ways you try to go above and beyond to create those loyal customers, brand ambassadors and supporters?

Pat Perdue is the chief customer experience designer at Toronto-based Socialicity and has worked with the likes of Scotiabank and Tommy Hilfiger USA. He helps clients use social media to build high-value relationships with their customers. Connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or over at this blog.