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Social Media: Healthier than Smoking

Clock: Time to Adapt


5.10.2012

I began my career some 20 years ago at a time that many of my staff today would describe technology-wise, as pre-digital! No mobiles, no email, and no social media.

I worked in media and public relations for the police and one of the first lessons I learnt was that information was the most powerful weapon in the police arsenal. Of course back then we could control the release of information much more easily, but to gather it, we had to work all the harder.

The best source of social information came from the smokers. If ever you wanted to know the ins and out of what was happening in police HQ, you made your way to the courtyard at the back of the building, did your best to inhale as little smoke as possible, stayed just long enough to find out what you needed and then it was back inside to report it.

Fast forward 20 years and, fortunately for my lungs, advancements in technology and the advent of social media has replaced the need to battle it out with the smokers for information – a much healthier option.

Thanks to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, information has never been so accessible. But it’s just not contained to breaking news or social gossip and what to do on the weekend, or pictures of pets and people’s kids (although I am a recidivist offender for this). I’m amazed at the amount of brand interaction and discussion that now makes up part of our everyday conversation and flows freely through channels.

A quick snapshot of my modest but close, 288 Facebook friends reveals conversations around travel deals, home insurance, Perth’s best coffee shops, customer service experiences at some of the big retailers, as well as the obligatory whinge about the big 4 banks.

So the choice for brands and advertisers is a simple one – do you or don’t you engage?

Erik Qualman author of Socialnomics states, that the question is not do or do not, "we don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it?"

A well developed social media policy should be at the forefront of any PR issues management/crisis management plan and the need for social media monitoring is imperative. If your customers are actively talking about your brand on these platforms can you really afford to run the risk of ignoring them?

What was once the domain of letters to the editor and talkback radio to a select audience, the world wide web revolution now has us talking about brands and products to a much wider and wiser audience and the age old adage that so many of us in the industry reference daily, has changed from simply being "word of mouth" to a "world of mouth".

You might recall the backlash aimed at retailer Big W last year when after a barrage of complaints about the brand’s inability to meet customers’ lay-by orders in time for Christmas, they finally acknowledged their customers on Facebook on December 19.

Too little, too late?

By then the damage to the brand had been done. A number of anti-Big W Facebook sites appeared, with thousands of "likes" for the comparison between them and the "Grinch that stole Xmas". Such negative sentiment will no doubt dint the festive coffers of their lay-by department this Christmas, with consumers unlikely to trust the brand again at such an important time.

Companies that engage in open and honest dialogue with their customers are noticeably held in higher regarded in my network of friends than those that choose to stay disengaged and off-line.

Being genuine is the key, and responding in a timely manner is critical in getting it right. You don’t even have to stand out in the cold with the smokers anymore! While effective social media monitoring requires somewhat sophisticated tools, these tools enable you to "listen" to a range of audiences and conversations across platforms including blogs and forums not just social media networks.

My advice, don’t put up the shutters. Instead of being brand beware, I say, brand beAware!
 

Jarrod Greenwood, Head of WA/SA/NT

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