Social Media Fear

May 28, 2010

Social Media. They are on everybody’s lips today. Everyone around you uses them, and you do so yourself as you are reading this blog post, right? Social Media have become the most widely used web activity, as recent data seem to indicate.

This is both good news and bad news for advertisers and marketing communication people. Good news, because it only makes sense to communicate on venues where visitors go to. The more visitors, the better. And this is exaclty what social media are offering today: people to talk with (not “at”!). The downside is that new media invite new uses. They are not delivered with a manual, or a user’s guide. They mean change, adaptation, evolution. For the marketing communicator who wants to harness them, it means  curiosity, discovery, trial and error. By many, change is experienced as a threat to the established order, danger for the known rules. This also applies to social media, that raise some understandable fears. We discuss some of them here.

Loss of control

Here is the bad news: indeed, through social media, you’re going to lose control of your brand. Now for the good news: no need to panick, you’ve already lost control of your brand. Just do like all your customers: type your brand name into Google and see what you get: customer comments, mentions in blog posts or twitter messages, videos on YouTube, price comparisons on dedicated sites, opinions on forums, pictures on Flickr and, of course, the content or ads you put there yourself, besides brand mentions by your own staff, good or bad.


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Here is even better news: this is a real opportunity to open up and leverage all that brand-related content:

1. social media enable brands to build and nurture a complete ecosystem involving all stakeholders, where interest, trust, relationship are the currency; no longer top-down or bottom up, but networked communication where any stakeholder (the brand, the company staff, the customers, interested people, …) may take the initiative.
2. As Robert East, Professor of Consumer Behaviour at Kingston Business School states in his recent ‘Analysing Customer Complaining’ review’, companies who are ready to monitor customer satisfaction and take the opportunity to put things right can repair the damage, especially as most critics are often keen to make positive comments too when they are listened to.

“Social media are not professional

“Social media are the preferred channels for youngsters, for leisure time, for friending, not for professional use or communication.” Do you agree?

I don’t. If they (possibly) used to, they no longer are. Social media are now mainstream, i.e. are considered as a standard communication channel among the many old and new media, no more, no less. The only difference may lie in the adoption curve of social platforms, which is much faster than preceding innovations. Today, companies have already started using socmed as contextual contact points with their audience in ways that are much more flexible, far more reactive, nearly real-time and throroughly engaging – in a word, as a professional communcation tool. Those among you who speak French may follow me on Anthony Poncier’s blog, to read his useful analysis of  KLM ‘s use of social media . This Dutch airline managed to harness the real-time conversational dimension of socmed during the Eyjafjöll vulcano eruption, that caused damage to so many airlines.

Advertisers need to accept the fact that social media are now part and parcel of the media landscape, as the following Social Media Revolution 2 amply shows.

Recently, the PR agency Burton-Marsteller polled the top 100 companies among the Fortune Global 500 (November 2009 to January 2010) on the use of social media. The results show convincingly how their adoption has become common by those leaders in their industry sector.

Global Social Media Checkup

Food for thought, I hope – for comments too – please leave some here. I’ll return to the subject in another post later, to discuss the “dangers” of socmed.
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