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It’s digital word of mouth without the bad breath

By Duncan Hewitt on September 09, 2013

Opinions are formed, stories propagate, minds change and businesses have a front-row seat – Social media. Few can argue that sophistication within the social media marketing sector is on the increase. It has well and truly opened the door to unprecedented opportunities allowing direct engagement of the previously ‘un-engageable’ – a customer Narnia if you will. The issue is whether or not this new-found sophistication has rubbed off on everyone. The low-cost seeking of simple results such as Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter ‘followers’ is still rife within the world. A fine polish has been applied but still business continues to demand tangible results rather than effective ones. Results-driven industries strives for data that can be presented as justification for the amount of money invested in the thirsty money pot that is social media. 
“Look how well we are doing boss, we have 10,000 followers.” These fateful words are something I hear on a daily basis in the Sports PR industry. Big brands sponsoring big sporting events sit idly by as agencies generate Twitter followers, Facebook likes and YouTube views on their behalf. The result is like a cancer. Everything seems hunky dory on the surface but despair inevitably looms. If brands and business focus on the face-value benefits, who is focusing on the real benefits? You’ve got 100,000 followers? You think that is where it ends? It is not even where it has begun. Brands have to ask themselves. Who out of these 100,000 are listening? How many are engaging? How many are sharing your content? The answer? It depends how that following was grown. When social media users do engage, business must listen to what they are saying, monitor what they are saying and tailor their content to stir the pot. These are effectively face-to-face interactions with customers. They are complex, littered with mines but if these can be navigated without loss of limb brands and businesses will gain a better understanding of who influences whom and how tipping points are reached. Many business owners are concerned that they are missing the social media boat but remain sceptically unconvinced of the benefits. Social media is not just about customer interaction. The immediacy of it all makes it an effective PR generator, reputation enhancer – or destroyer in some people’s cases – and a crisis management tool. Breaking news is first digested on Twitter so it allows business to manipulate and control what is seen by an audience – ‘Murdochesque‘ like. It allows business to deliver success stories right on cue and react to crises before they are allowed to escalate. As we all are aware, social media can enhance your brand awareness. If your branding is consistent across different media, you will create something more recognisable and dynamic. Business website traffic will also benefit. Major search engines now include social media updates and posts in their results. If your business is active; you will appear top of the pile. When it comes to developing and implementing social media for your business, the biggest cost can be time. But if your social media strategy is reaping dividends, then it’s time well spent.