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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