Do you know what people are saying about you?

September 14, 2009

conniebenson-Connie Bensen is Director of Community Strategy and Architecture at Alterian, working cross functionally to provide strategy and best practice in social media. The opinions expressed are her own.-

It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners, terrestrial TV took 13 years, the internet took four years… In less than nine months, Facebook added 100 million users. We are in the midst of a digital revolution that is shaping the way we communicate and these social media technologies are continuing to grow a pace in 2009. Now more than four out of five online users are active in either creating, participating in, or reading some form of social content at least once a month.

While young people continue to march toward almost universal adoption of social applications, the most rapid growth is occurring among consumers 35 and older. Consumer behaviour has always had an effect on the way we do business and this is no different as social media enters the business realm full swing.

It’s not about selling something anymore; that might be the end result, but to get there, you need to work on the relationship. To get it right it is about listening to what your consumers want. Social media is defined as user generated content and has empowered the everyday consumer so marketing departments no longer control distribution and disposition of information about their company, brand, and products – the consumer does.

Your brand’s message matters but more important is the message the consumers are sending about you. Customers are turning more towards digital influencers, bloggers and peers than company “ads” for product information so negative opinions online can be hugely damaging. Social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace, and Twitter have demonstrated the speed with which a company’s reputation can be drastically affected by an unhappy consumer.

Open and real-time dialogue can offer endless opportunities for brands but must also to be approached with a level of caution. For example, there needs to be clear guidelines agreed between personal views and the views of a company for those employees responsible for online interaction. This is to ensure a level of personalisation is achieved, showing the human side of a company, without compromising brand values.

So social media success is about listening, engaging, and measuring. Where are consumers discussing it online? Who are the key influencers? What is being talked about? What is the mood; is it positive or negative? These are the questions businesses need to ask before they act.

No one can predict exactly how social media will evolve but the certain thing remains that it will – digital engagement is the future and old forms of engagement are dead. If you aren’t listening to the noise in the online world you are going to miss it and miss out.


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“the internet took four years” – And when, precisely, do you believe the Internet came into being? It sounds like you disagree with accepted date of the late 1970’s….

“If you aren’t listening to the noise in the online world” – Noise is noise. If the signal to noise ratio in the online world is a hundred times worse than it is elsewhere, then that’s you’re reason for ignoring it right there. Of course you’ll take a hit until the hoi polloi themselves realise that all they can find on social sites is noise, but I’ll wager it will only be a short wait.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Brand fragility and alleged danger of interacting with customers at close quarters (as in, without stodgy bogus scripts) seem to be of greater concern in the corporate world at this time than relentless dedication to actual customer satisfaction, across the board.

It used to be generally accepted that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. No longer.

One detects instead the pervasive aroma of corporate fear of anything less than full public favor. Rather than just focus on providing the real thing in the first place, too many corporate entities exhibit fear of being found out for any satisfaction they fail to provide. Eventually, people smell this fear like sharks. What happens then was destined to happen anyway…

The unruly internet as we know it is a virtual venue in which the gap between actual satisfaction and neocorporate mythology of “your call is important to us” may or may not avoid coming into greater and thus potentially useful focus.

By the way, the internet does not exist to sell products. It does not belong to the corporations. It is not there to channel arbitrary commercial interests and deliver corporate excuses. It’s a communications medium.

People’s opinions are never going to be one hundred percent favorable. It’s that simple.

With or without the internet, well-built brands should have nothing to fear but fear itself. Brand creation, maintenance and management should never be entrusted to neurotic persons prone to herd mentality and/or panic, for whom the word “friend” has become a verb.

If one thing has been proven through the internet, it’s that even relatively complacent customers viscerally realize this. They don’t like being pandered to. They don’t mind taking the rough with the smooth as long as there’s enough real smooth to be had in the long run.

It’s time corporations realized it too. Also that it takes more than having just a human side. To prosper, one has to be human through and through.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

Hi Ian,
My apologies if I wasn’t clear. I was intending to day that it’s only taken four years for the Internet to reach 50 million years. And yes it’s agreed that the internets are almost as old as I am!
Somehow I think that all those people at their social sites are enjoying making their noise! Why else would their numbers be growing along with an increased amount of time spent there

And I agree with the second comment that fear is what will prevent companies from engaging in the social web or at least prevent them from coming across as human. Those that can trust their employees and empower them with their brand will have the most success.

Connie Bensen
Community Strategist, Alterian

Posted by Connie Bensen | Report as abusive

Isn’t it pleasant to read Connie Benson’s corporate blah, and then actually have an immediate articulate rejection of that irritating mode of non speak. Thanks ‘The Bell’!

“It’s not about selling something anymore; that might be the end result” (Director of Community Strategy and Architecture)

Says it all doesn’t it. But don’t you just love the dilemma of statistic hungry corporate piranhas desperate to find a hard selling point in something as flighty and substanceless as the internet!

Can’t stop here anymore, gotta get back to Facebook and pick some fleas off someone…

Posted by Rhoops | Report as abusive