Understanding Social Media
Understanding social media starts with this one simple truth: we are all connected, wired to each other in ways filled with breathless possibilities and perilous pitfalls. It isn’t enough for brands to push messages out anymore. People want to be in conversation with the brand and people they do business with, whether they’re big or small.
Understanding social media requires us to think like our consumers. We don’t want to watch ads and we don’t want to be sold anything. We want to be engaged by a brand and connect with it on a human level.
Automation and systematization have stripped the humanity from our daily business transactions. But it is antithetical to our very natures to have machines talk to us, routing our calls through a bureaucratic labyrinth where we may or may not get help. Yet, increasingly, that’s what happens: efficiencies to help a company – but at a personal toll to the client or customer.
The end result? Customers and clients resent giving brands – even those they’ve dealt with for years – their hard earned money. The less invested consumers feel a brand is in them, the less invested they in turn will be in it.
Social media is a game changer. Albeit through technology, if it’s done correctly, it puts back into a brand what decades of systematization has taken out: human interaction. It gives the consumer back the very things that we need to relate to another, be it a person or a brand, and gives us what we crave:
- real-time conversation
- the exact information we want when we want it.
Social media is as revolutionary to modern communications as the telephone was in the day of the telegraph. You may not like it. You may be wary of it. But you cannot simply ignore it.
Profitable brands in the coming years will embrace this understanding of social media: customers and clients are demanding a return to actual and human interaction with the brands we give our money to. And thanks to social media, they can.
Is social media right for every brand? No, it isn’t. But it is right for any brands that are seriously committed to:
People new to social media think it’s all about talking. But in fact, it’s just as much about listening, maybe even more. Through blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, brands can listen in on the very demographic they are trying to connect with. Responsive brands can then devise or evolve products and services to better serve their clients or customers knowing in advance there is a market for what they are developing.
Responsiveness is a must in effective public relations. It’s always been true that a good experience is shared with few but a bad one is shared with many – but it’s more true today in a world where within the click or two of a mouse, anyone disgruntled can let a whole bunch of people in on what they like or don’t like. Social media is one of the most effective ways for a company to keep its finger on the public relations pulse. It also allows companies to head off emerging problems that could be diffused quickly by timely response, or ignored and left to fester into great big gaping PR wounds.
Can social media efforts go wrong? Absolutely. Message boards and blogs are filled with social media blunders. But here’s the thing. They’re likely the same kind of blunders that your brand and/or its representatives are making outside of social media. What social media does is put the good — and the bad — out on public display.
Yes, that can be scary. But brands today should be more afraid of the blunders they can’t see than the ones they can. They’re the ones that fester under the surface, erupting without warning and with no easy way to cap them before they explode. Those are the ones that will truly hurt a brand – and the very ones that social media just may save you from.
Understanding Social Media is no longer a niceity. It’s a necessity. To learn more about the in’s and out’s of social media, please download our White Paper called “What is Social Media” located on the right side bar of the Babble On home page.
Picture courtesy of Tyson Jerry of Driven to Sustain.