Youtility (2013) goes against the grain of accepted marketing methods by declaring that information, not promotion, is the way to win customers. Counterintuitive and refreshing methods are presented, repositioning the relationship between businesses and consumers. The book outlines examples from a wide spectrum of companies, big and small, driving home the message that by helping people and being useful instead of chasing sales, companies can prosper in the long-term.
Social media is crucial in helping companies build up a huge audience – that's why firms spend vast amounts on promotional campaigns. But for these tactics to be successful, a company needs to establish a relationship of trust with their customers, because people are heavily influenced by reliable sources on social media. The more trust a company has, the more successful it is likely to be in its promotions.
However, even if a company expends a lot of effort on gaining this reputation for reliability, it can be incredibly difficult to preserve.
The main way companies can lose consumers' trust is by bombarding their news feeds with lots of intrusive or inappropriate messages. This leads to the situation where personal posts from friends and family are interrupted by various exclamations about how great a company’s products are. This is actually the most common reason for people to "unlike" a company on Facebook, meaning that the resources used for promotion are ultimately wasted.
The toilet paper company Charmin is a good example of losing customer trust. They developed an app called Sit or Squat which saves users time and discomfort by showing them nearby public toilets and whether they are clean ("Sit"), or not ("Squat"). Charmin hoped to build up a huge network of followers by providing useful, relevant information.
This, however, backfired. The app encouraged users to leave toilet reviews which found their way onto their profiles on social media, so that their friends and family ended up reading these undesirable status updates. Many users, unhappy with this information being shared, vented their anger against the app and the company.
By bombarding people with unwanted messages, companies lose the trust that's vital for building audiences on social media.