How Marketing is wasting the Social Opportunity

Posted in: Advice and ideas, Opinion- Jul 09, 2013 Comments Off

two-way-streetThere is something very wrong with the way the Corporate sector has sought to grasp the opportunity of Social Media.  This week I’ve seen a lot of evidence that a significant shift needs to be made towards managing Social Media’s potential much better.  Controversially, central to that might be wresting some control of it away from Marketing.

What can go wrong with the way Marketing uses Social Media was well demonstrated by Paul Wallbank in his blog post this week on an embarrassing #fail by a major airline.  In short the scenario is that a troll posted an offensive image on the company’s Facebook page overnight which went un-noticed by Marketing until an 8-year old boy was unfortunately exposed to it.  Paul (@paulwallbank) argues that:

“While marketing is a valid place for social media responsibility – it’s probably the most obvious area to establish a return on the functions – it leaves organisations vulnerable to out of hours customer service and public relations problems.”

How often, for instance, do you call-out a brand on Twitter and feel like you’re talking to yourself?  How often do you comment on a Brand’s Facebook Post and receive no answer?

I wonder if Marketing is a “valid” place for  Social Media to live, and that perhaps Marketing’s use of Social Media needs to be overseen by those parts of the business less focussed merely on ROI, clicks or leads and more on the experience of the customer and the reputation of the brand.  A very interesting article on this topic by Rick (@rickspence) Spence – “Don’t just leave social media to the marketing department“ looks at a blog post by Social Media maven Mitch (@mitchjoel) Joel, who says:

“The opportunity for businesses to connect in a much deeper, richer and more profound way could not be easier, But companies aren’t leveraging this potential. They’re still using social media to plug products and press releases, not to build relationships.”

The way that Marketing has focussed on Social Media plays more to its history of using other digital channels to pimp products and services – it is one-way communication. Social Media offers a beautiful combination of search targeting and audience segmentation which Marketing has embraced gladly.  What they haven’t embraced is the opportunity promised by – as Mitch Joel reflects – The Clutrain Manifesto, the pre-Social visionary tract that predicts the two-way and democratic nature of Social engagement.

Marketing doesn’t tend to think about conversations with customers – and the culture of most Marketing department is to avoid the customer, palming them off to call centres.  Marketing is not commonly  adept at the language of conversations with customers or stakeholders.  Marketing is really a one-way operation.  PR and After-Sales have very salient and valuable skills, knowledge and expertise that is often overlooked in Marketing’s haste to deliver leads, traffic-spikes and sales and to more broadly own Social Media.

The extent of the available opportunity for companies able to leverage Social Media for customer Engagement – not likes but conversations – is well illustrated by research conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau.  By looking at the activity of a selection of FMCG brands,  the report found that those willing to invest in true customer engagement on Social Media could expect huge ROI.  In particular the report concludes that 90 per cent of customers would recommend a brand after a Social Media engagement with that brand.

“Our research shows that to create an emotional connection brands really need to provide clear, timely and, most important of all, relevant content that develop a conversation. Social media has the potential to turn brand customers into brand fans.”

This speaks to the power of Social Engagement not only to enhance brand loyalty but also to create an army of unpaid and enthusiastic advocates for your brand.  In a world where buying decisions are increasingly dependent on peer-to-peer recommendations, not Marketing noise, this is essential to success.  While Marketing should continue to do what it does best on Social – produce, target and measure content –  it should not preclude other parts of the business from doing what they do best and it is for these departments to step up and seize that opportunity.

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