Social Media – is it losing its edge?

Every media option has its day in the sun. In the early 90’s direct marketing attracted all the buzz, then came ambient.  The early noughties gave us online display advertising which had given in to search by decades end.

Lately, Social Media has been stealing the column inches in everything from PC World to Marketing Magazine.  It is obviously trendy but are we beginning to see the warning signs that social media’s light will soon fade?

Last month Hazel Philips wrote an entertaining yet scathing piece on social media marketing in the NBR. She merrily congratulated businesses for not joining the “social media cult” and for “avoiding pointless and expensive conversations” with customers that turn “marketing staff into glorified customer service representatives”. Phew – as I said, fairly scathing.

Now we don’t necessarily agree with the assertions made in the article.  We believe that Social Media can become an important part of today’s marketing mix. However it is clear that companies need to have a robust strategy in order to avoid the embarrassment of humiliating themselves on social networks.

With that in mind here are our top 4 tips to avoid the pain.

1. Develop a strategy that adds value to your customer base. This is the starting point. Don’t feel like you have to have a presence just because Facebook and Twitter are hot right now.  Give the public something that they (and you) place value on, like discounts or invitations to events.  Even content and entertainment can count.

2. Know that you have to resource it. It’s a common refrain – “we’ll do it even though we don’t really have a resource for it”.  Well, find the resource.  You need to keep on top of the conversation and yes, engage in it.  You can’t do this by remote control. You will need to find a person within the organisation who can write and has the smarts to answer questions.

3. Engagement does not have to come from sitting there posting and replying to comments- what applications can you use to amuse and delight your fans? House of Travel hit the jackpot with their Mix and Match Machine on Facebook.  The game application which matched you up with two friends and put you in a draw to win a trip to a special destination was a big hit.

4. Understand that social media is a tool for people to talk to each other (in positive or negative terms) and that they won’t necessarily do what you tell them.  Cadbury is a company who “sat out” social media only to see it erupt around them when the palm oil debate blew up last year.  They eventually found that engaging with people on Social Media platforms was more effective than ignoring it. While they had to wade through many of the publics “complaints”, members gave them kudos for this and now, well the public just seem to want to celebrate the joys of chocolate.

There you go, that’s our advice – be smart, be brave and be marketers.

Illustration: A Cadbury fan credits the company’s efforts

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