Should corporates embrace social media?

Carl Galalgher wrote:

I saw a recent post on the GasPedal blog that quoted some interesting stats in relation to social media and why corporates should embrace it.

The findings were from a  study  that concluded 60% of Americans use social media, and of those, nearly 60% engage with companies on social sites—one in four of which interact with companies more than once per week.

The study goes on to reveal that a whopping 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media, while 85% believe that a company should not only be present but also interact with consumers.

Other findings:

  • 56% of social media users feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment
  • 43% of users believe companies should use social networks to help solve their problems
  • 41% believe companies should solicit feedback on their products and services through social media
  • Men are twice as likely to frequently interact with companies online than women

So what should we make of all this? Well this is all good news. Yes corporates should embrace the world of social media. However they should not just see this as another marketing channel. Social media by its very definition is very different to every other form of marketing. It is personal communication. It’s a ‘conversaion’. It is also very easy for businesses to get social media wrong.

Churning out the same message that is contained in your banner ad, DM comms, or TVC and Tweeting it or sticking it in a facebook ad is not going to do you any favours in the social media world. This has the potential to easily be seen as an intrusion on one’s personal life.

This is equivalent to the endless stream of “junk mail” that I get every month from Company-X (I won’t mention any names to protect the innocent) trying to sell me a service that I clearly don’t want. Disguising the same message in a different fancy envelope is not going to change my opinion on Company-X or their product.  It just adds to my frustration that Company-X doesn’t care about why I don’t want their product. How arrogant! Their tactic is to keep ramming it down my throat until I eventually give in (which I never will whilst they keep marketing to me in this way).

Organisations such as Company-X need to get smarter with their messaging and communication. With social media they have the power to send me more targeted, relevant, and timely offers. They can educate me on how my friends (real people I actually know) are using their product, rather than assuming that I can relate to the people in their TV ads.  The can engage in discussion with me and find out why I have such an aversion to their product. They can embrace the debate and try to convince me otherwise. They can listen to what I have to say, and can respond back to me directly.

By doing these things, Company-X would be showing me that they care about making their product relevant to me. That is something that I may actually pay for if it ever happened.

I will be the first to admit that it is not an easy job, and has the potential to be resource intensive to communicate to customers in this new way. But take a look at the number of people involved in producing all the “generic” marketing material for Company-X that I am ignoring (along with many other people too no doubt). If just some of these people were diverted to social media communication (and understood the medium well enough to use it effectively) then think about all those extra people that Company-X could potentially convert. Would that not equate to a better spend of money?

There will always be the diehards who won’t accept corporates entering their social media existence. You are never going to convince them. But there is a mainstream social media community out there  (as evidenced by the stats at the top of this post) that is open to the right form of communication from companies.

I hope Company-X is listening.  🙂

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