Thursday, 3 July 2008

relationships need to be worked at

After all the hype surrounding Facebook's announcement to allow brands to set up their own profiles, at a cost of course, have brands got any further in their quest to find a valuable use for this media?

You'd think that access to one of the most popular social network sites, with consumers identified by picture, name, date of birth, home town, university and interests would be a marketer's gold mine. However, little progress has been made to tap into the potential of this new social craze. Whilst most jumped on the band wagon putting profiles and applications together, they held little regard for setting objectives to ensure they were maximising their opportunity.

However did they stop to ask the question of whether people are willing to interact with organisations and brands and to what extent.

Robert Horler, the managing director of Diffiniti, a
Facebook-style intimate nudge believes that many users of social networking sites are actually
hostile towards advertising. "It's easy to forget that the power is in the hands of
users as never before. " (brand republic 2008).

Which is true, for the first time consumers have the power to express their opinions, generate their own content, chose to boycott companies, avoid ads, research issues for themselves. Gone is the time of the passive consumer. Brands need to let go of some of the power they are used to having and give consumers a choice. Providing incentives and rewards can get them on side and overcome any grudging feelings towards adverts imposing on their space.

Especially as brands have an obvious vested interest in interacting with their potential consumers but are consumers as willing to enter into a dialogue with them? My initial response has doubted their enthusiasm and also commitment but looking at various brand profiles it seems that its the brands that are lacking in commitment and may have underestimated the time needed to be invested into these networks to even start to create any sort of meaningful relationship with their target audience.

Posting a couple of news updates when launching the site and then sitting back and waiting for comments from fans is not really a relationship. After expressing initial interest visitors will soon get bored if they're not getting anything back.

Its like when a boy asks out a girl in the playground because he like the idea of having a girlfriend but then ignoring her and going back to playing football with his mates. A relationship is never going to prevail if you don't put in some time and effort. Many brands don't even put in the minimum.

They could benefit from contacting its members to come back and visit their site for a particular reason rather than concentrating all their communication on the site itself as this is reliant on members firstly remembering what groups they have joined and secondly reminding them that there is something new worth looking at on there.

It stands to reason that users will talk to those who take time to talk to them, same principle is already used between friends on social networks. Often users will have a small pool of people whom they talk to as they often hear back from them. To get on consumers' radar they have to make several attempts to talk to them on a fairly regular basis or they will divert their attention to their more valued friends.

So to tackle the debate of whether it is worth brands engaging with social networks, firstly you have to ask whether they are prepared to put the effort in. Relationships need work before you can even start to expect a return on investment. The key is to look long term, creating brand awareness, reminding consumers of your presence and gaining that 'cool' factor from having a social network presence and being seen to engage with consumers on their level. This is bound to have positive affects on a brands' reputation that will convert into sales in the long run if the brand can be consistent.

1 comment:

Toby said...

Jenny - wonderful post that should be read by anyone considering jumping on the "cool" social media networking train.