WHAT’S all the buzz around social media?
The explosion that is social media came about due to the convergence of three forces: people, technology and economics. People wanted to talk, and technology caught up to the extent that it became possible to connect to friends in real time using a multitude of devices. These are made affordable because the infrastructure is now in place making it easily accessible to the vast majority.
The easiest way to think of social media, I believe, is as a conversation that millions of people are having, one that’s growing louder as more and more voices join in. And guess what the topics are: they are talking about you, your brand, your product and your services.
This is no flash in the pan either; it’s a sea change that businesses have to get to grips with.
At no point so far have you seen it referred to here as a sales channel, but it can be. Companies, Dell for instance, have successfully developed a sales channel that uses social media channels to tap into its consumer base. Don’t rush to the phone and call your digital agency and ask for one just yet though. Dell spent years building trust and putting real people in the firing line to take on customer issues, being visible and saying, “Hey, we’re here and we’re listening.”
We are a discerning bunch who regularly use social media. We like to be informed, entertained but not, I repeat not, overtly sold too. The number of companies I see tweeting “I’m thinking up great ideas to promote my online store at www……….” Please, show me some respect, some originality, some idea that you know who I am and what I like.
I advise people to listen, listen, listen before they engage with social media. Discover where your customers are online. What tools do they use? Are they creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators or inactive in social media? Without this understanding you could invest time and energy in creating a forum and discover that your customers are predominately spectators who like to read but not contribute to online conversations.
Clever businesses are developing listening strategies that harvest feedback and provide fresh insights into what their target audience is thinking. They are talking with their audience, taking down the corporate wall and getting closer to the people who buy their products and use their services.
It is these companies, the ones taking social media seriously as a tool – opposed to a frivolous distraction their employees spend too long using – that will reap the benefits.
Declan Metcalfe is marketing director of Stokesley-based Better Brand Agency (www.betterbrandagency.com).