Is social media now a mainstay of mainstream marketing?
In more than two years since PR Media Blog began – when commercial, social media activity in the UK was more rooted in theory than practice – the online engagement revolution seems to have gained enough momentum to pose a serious challenge to the marketing hegemony.
Whereas, at one time, it was a struggle to get arrested for talking social media with in-house marketing teams, now they are positively dragging you to the table, eager to open up and peer inside the latest “Ark of the Covenant” for business.
Some organisations, more accustomed to adopting relatively conservative communications methods, are now even choosing to lead campaigns with social media activity. And then there’s the likes of Asda, immersing itself and its customers in social media and even thinking of itself as more than just a retailer – i.e., a content generator.
Why is this?
As Scott Liewehr, senior consultant and lead analyst at Gilbane Group, said in a highly informative webinar yesterday: “Social media is the web…and consumers are shaping your brand.”
He went on to explain how social media, in influencing purchasing choices, means that “customers are trusting complete strangers more than household brands” and that “brands should be viewing this as an opportunity rather than a threat”.
Liewehr describes the “superbrands” as embracing online customer participation and engagement as the social web allows companies to listen, understand and respond. At first look, this isn’t easy, as the social media landscape is more (in his word) the “Splinternet” – with conversations and activity happening simultaneously in disparate online locations.
With this in mind, he offers a checklist for the modern digital marketeer:
1. Be open
2. Be a good listener
3. Be prepared – you need to have something to say in response to a customer comment, and quickly!
4. Be knowledgeable and add value
5. Be consistent
But for those organisations and marketeers still cautious about balancing the threat and opportunity of social media – and wondering how to keep up with the latest gizmo – Liewehr cousels calm! “It’s mostly NOT about technology,” he says, suggesting the skills needed for online engagement aren’t new, but that the delivery channels have changed.
Getting started with social media should include modest expectations in the early days, focusing on small wins and learnings with an eye on building long-term impact.
But, he adds, firms shouldn’t underestimate the transformational power of one person – the right person, doing the right things – representing a brand online.
The net gain should be better brand awareness, increased sales and customer loyalty.
Funny that; sounds a bit like marketing.