Social media for business – listening to your audience

Mon, 01/08/2011 - 17:02

Social media consultants have become the snake oil salesmen of the 21st century.

A sweeping generalisation maybe, but it really does seem like every Tom, Dick and Harry is offering their ‘expert’ social media services to corporate South Africa.

At best, many businesses are likely to be left feeling short changed. At worst, they’ll lose customers and suffer the kind of reputational damage that’ll long outlive the charm of their social media consultant.

Simply put, social media just doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all guise. It will work very effectively for some companies...and not at all for others.

But that’s not the issue. My concern isn’t for the misguided (or idiotic) lawyer who allows himself to be convinced that an expensive Facebook app will transform his business.

No, my concern is for the consumer-facing corporate who is strong-armed into believing that social media offers another platform to push sales messages.

In this day and age, we all want to talk. It seems we’ve forgotten how to listen. Social media gives us a chance to rediscover this. So don’t fill your Facebook page with senseless sales messages. Rather create a platform where your constituents can talk – either to you, or to each other.

Handled effectively – the irony being this really means taking a hands-off approach - social media allows you to hear what customers are saying.

Before the advent of Twitter, you had to spend serious tong on focus groups to listen into customer conversations. Now it’s free and you can monitor the chatter at will.

By trying to force social media to become yet another sales channel, businesses lose the opportunity to gain insight into consumer behaviour. Instead, social media becomes corporate media.

Use it effectively, however, and you’ll have a pretty reliable barometer of public opinion. Think about it. If people are constantly looking over their shoulder to watch what they say or share, they’re unlikely to be authentic. If you shower them in a deluge of corporate speak, it will destroy the social environment, they’ll cut back their participation and the integrity of their comments will be undermined.

Despite this, social media ‘experts’ are still convincing businesses to exploit the sales potential of their social media forums. And the heavy handed manner in which corporate messaging is being implemented is destroying value.

I for one don’t want to see social media blend into a yet another corporate media channel. I’ve no interest in reading that my local coffee shop has just poured its millionth espresso. But I do want to know where the Dude with the Dali moustache gets his macchiato fix when he’s out of town. And I’m sure the store owner does too.

If you'd like some guidance on your social media marketing strategy. Email us or give us a call on 021 975 8181. We'll listen!

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