By Pete Davis, MD, Getmemedia.com
Like many people, I find social media fascinating. It engages consumers so powerfully that it presents incredible opportunities for brands. Yet, most brands have still to fully capitalise on it. So, with a media that everyone is so eager to get involved with, why is this?
I recently attended the launch of Wave 6, the latest annual instalment of UM’s social media survey. Wave has been running since 2006, and as such it’s the world’s largest and longest running social media study. This year it covered 62 countries and 43% of the worldwide internet population. The theme for this year’s survey was ‘The Business of Social’.
The study accurately described social media as the quickest-moving digital phenomenon the world has ever witnessed. So it’s hardly surprising that brands simply can’t keep up. The report also confirmed that few brands are using social media objectively, concluding that few chief executives understand the value of social media or indeed actually use it – indicating that there’s clearly a social media generation gap.
So is social media really that important for brands? Isn’t it better that it remains a consumer’s plaything, or a medium that businesses merely dabble in?
The answer is a resounding ‘No!’ And what really brought this home during the event was the finding that consumers prefer social media to company websites. So if companies could harness just a little of the consumer engagement power of social media, they would clearly be a lot better off. And with so much competition existing across every business sector these days, properly connecting and deeply engaging with consumers is the key to loyalty, the marketer’s Holy Grail.
Social media allows brands to engage more deeply because it fosters dialogue – two-way conversations, as opposed to the usual one-way messaging. To make the most of this human interaction, a brand itself must be human. And it’s this shift in emphasis that gives many chief executives and senior marketers pause for thought, but it is in fact a major opportunity for them.
I can’t help finding this a little ironic, good marketers understand the benefits of a strong brand personality but they are not jumping at the chance that social media presents. A medium has finally come along that demands brands to be human; that really allows brands to express their personality. As such, social media represents a wonderful opportunity for brands to really differentiate themselves AND build strong, long-term relationships with their core audiences.
So where should they start? I asked some the social media experts at UM to come up with their top five tips…
1) Don’t assume that your consumer wants a social relationship with you. They may just want to transact with your brand and nothing else. Don’t waste time, effort and investment on creating a social relationship when there isn’t a genuine consumer need for one.
2) If you find that your consumers do want a social relationship with you, find out what kind of relationship they want. Not all consumers, brands and categories want the same kind of social interaction with brands. Some want very superficial relationships, i.e. "tell me when your new product comes out" and some want very deep relationships i.e. "let me work with you to develop new products that really meet my needs". Knowing where your consumer fits along this scale is important, because otherwise you potentially over invest in an experience that the consumer ultimately doesn’t want or under invest in an experience that fails to meet the consumer's needs or expectations.
3) Understand the true value of building this social relationship to your brand. In essence keep your brand's objectives at the forefront of your thinking and consider the role that social media can play in helping you meet them. Ultimately, will it meet your brands strategic objectives and does it warrant the amount of time and investment required to develop it?
4) Think about how best to deliver the experience. There are now so many ways that consumers can interact with brands, different social platforms (social networks, microblogs) that can be accessed through different digital devices (smartphones, tablets, P.C's) and each of these have different strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how to deliver a social experience is vital if you want consumers to interact with you.
5) Lastly, test, measure and learn. Firstly clarify what you are trying to achieve from the campaign. When you are clear on your objective it is much easier to know what success looks like. Then put a learning plan in place which should include hard measures, like the tracking of readily available digital data, visits, tweets, fans etc. but also include an analysis of softer measures, like consumers attitudes. How does it makes them feel about you and do these attitude shifts meet your overall brand objectives. With social media still really in its infancy the brands that will be the most successful are those who have set themselves on a learning fast track.
For social media training, contact the experts at The Knowledge Engineers who can help you to achieve social media success.
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