For most marketers, social media is becoming decidedly antisocial. Looking at the ever-increasing speed and magnitude of so-called “brand fails” on Facebook and Twitter, it can’t be long until senior management starts saying enough is enough.
Social media has proven to be a revolution in communications and has become an essential tool for people to interact with each other. The desire of people to interact with brands or companies or advertising messages via social channels is less proven. Except when given an opportunity to slam them.
Marketers, sold on the (relatively cheap) hot new fad have turned up like the loud, uninvited gatecrasher at a party, who interrupts people chatting to each other and ends up being turned on and turfed out by the other guests.
I think many companies are coming to the horrible realisation that when they get up close and personal with people, rather than being “liked”, they are generally loathed. That’s OK, companies exist to sell stuff and make money, not friends.
People have conversations. Companies and people don’t. People do have conversations about companies and brands. But there’s no way to manage them. The best thing companies can do is to use social channels to listen to what consumers are saying, not clumsily start uninvited conversations with them.
(Of course some companies are clear about the direction in which they are travelling and the audience they desire to reach and so are confident enough to ignore social media noise, for it matters little to their end goals).
Brands are proving to be pretty bad at using social media as an active marketing channel – exacerbated by the fact that most companies have a low tolerance for criticism combined with an innate lack of finesse in dealing with critics when they raise their heads. And the recent ruling that companies are responsible for the content of comments posted on their Facebook pages raises the stakes.
Social is an amplification media, and the reality is bad news amplifies far more readily than good, because generally people (and the media) react to the former and couldn’t give a toss about the latter. I don’t recall the term “brand win” being thrown around much in comment threads.
My opinion is that (most) companies should not bother with company/brand pages on social sites, and instead hand responsibility for social media management over to the customer service team, which has a charter (as well as the resources and experience) to deal with customer interactions, and the ability to monitor and respond to activity in social channels.
There’s no way to stop social channels exploding in “consumer advocacy” and the narrow opinions of the few being liked exponentially to the detriment of a company. But there’s no good reason for companies to provide a platform for angry consumers to launch their views of a brand into the wider world.
I’m not advocating ignoring social channels in marketing executions – use them to amplify something good (special offers, promotions, a great piece of content) and facilitate the pass-on factor that is driven and owned by the people using these channels to engage with each other.
But I suggest (most) marketers avoid the temptation to give life to their online personalities on social sites. At best you are contributing a digital tumbleweed to the desert of ignored web/social pages. At worst you are providing the lead story for tonight’s news bulletins.
Rob Fraser is the managing director of Big River Creative