Giving Consumers Control: The Power of Social Media

Since this is a rather hot topic now a days, I decided I should start off with a TED talk. The speaker, Sherry, talks about how we have become so dependent on our technology, that it is shaping who we are becoming. The control we have over what content we want to read, and more importantly, the content we share with the world, has become a worldwide epidemic. Our mothers warned us to never talk to strangers, yet we converse with them every day on Twitter and Facebook. Our online presence is starting to hold more weight in job interviews than actual resumes, and companies look through potential employees Facebook’s before even asking them in for an interview.  The idea of having control is part of the reason why social media is so big today.

WordofMouthMarketing

Now let’s cut to the chase: social media is a Word of Mouth amplifier.  If you want to know about how great (or horrible) a restaurant was, you go to social media channels to see what others said about it. We use social media to stay informed, and it in turn, influences are way of making decisions; from things as small as a movie, to our president. The president’s social media campaign during the presidential races was one that helped shape his eventual wins: First in 2008, and again in 2012 around debate time with Mitt Romnney; who could forget the 47% video and the #Bigbird fiasco? Thanks to social media, no one did when it came to election time. The amplification levels of consumer opinions via social media are massive; it’s like, over 9000.

over9000

(If you don’t get that…here.)

But for real,  I’m serious. Nielsen and Twitter just announced a new twitter rating system that allows television networks to see the reach influence of television related conversations, which help greatly with a TV shows safety in whether it well stay on the air or not. America’s Next Top Model started incorporating “social media scores” which measures a girl’s popularity on social channels, and play a huge factor into whether she stays or goes. Social media has made a huge impression on our society, and businesses are learning how to utilize it best in order to understand and engage with their audience. Ask any small business owner; social media has been one of their best ways of connecting with customers, and gaining new ones. In fact, approximately 53% of small businesses use social media for just that. You want to stay in the forefront of your consumer’s mind? I’d start with creating a Twitter and Facebook account.

Americans spend an average of 23 hours on social media sites per week, accounting for 14% of their total amount of online time. That is a lot of real estate for businesses to move in on in order to reach the audience they wish to attract. Compared to 2011, social app time has increased by 76%, with consumers spending more time on mobile devices, businesses would potentially have unlimited access to your consumers via their phone. In order to do that, you have to play by the consumer’s rules, meaning no spammy posts, and being relevant to what the consumer is looking for. That is the only way consumers will be more open to interacting with you. Sound familiar?

Thanks to social media, businesses are now able to directly connect with consumers as if they were just friends on the internet. They can put up youtube videos, tweet at us, and create pages for us to like and share online.  They also are able to manage their image better by being able to handle potential PR nightmares. While some do a great job, there have been some notorious blunders:

  • January 2013, Applebee’s fires a woman who exploited a customer who rudely refused to leave a tip, using tithing as an excuse to not pay. Social media picked up on it like wildfire, and Applebee’s did not respond to well. They ended up causing a multitude of boycotts across the US, and a damaged reputation.
  • Spring 2008, singer-songwriter Dave Carroll was on a flight to Nebraska on United Airlines, when a passenger behind him exclaimed that guitars were being thrown. Turns out they were his. After 9 months of trying to get an apology and compensation to no avail, he took matters into his own hands by creating a youtube video called United Breaks Guitars. The video currently has 13,506,726 views, and United lost a lot of stock value, and respect.

So what can businesses do to best woo this newly powered consumer? I jotted a few tips down:

  • Listen more than you talk. Ever heard that saying God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason? Social media is best used when you aren’t using it as solely a promotion tool. People want to interact and engage with you, not some salesperson. Pose questions to have answered, research what your customer’s are looking for. Be sure to be listening to your customer’s needs, before posting anything.
  • Integrate don’t deviate. Meaning don’t forego your old marketing strategies and stick solely with social media; because it won’t work. Being an inbound marketing strategy, social media needs to be integrated with the rest of your marketing mix, in order to be successful. Remember the Justice League; unless it’s Batman (which it’s not), the superheroes are only successful when they are working together.
  • Don’t treat Social Media as an afterthought. I have seen television shows saved from cancellation, and favorite reality stars kept on shows for a little longer thanks to social media. Don’t shove it off to an inexperienced intern and expect them to do all of it for you. People can smell BS, especially on the internet. Don’t be that guy.
  • Quality over Quantity. This goes with my first bullet point, but don’t focus so much on getting as many statuses, or tweets as possible. I block friends who post  statuses that are meaningless every 10 minutes on Facebook, because it has no meaning to me. Businesses are already on the fence with being our “friends” so I suggest cooling it on the over posting.

You have more tips on how businesses can best utilize social media? Think the whole idea of social media and business integration is sick and wrong? Let me know in the comments below!