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The New Word-of-Mouth

Social Media

· social media,Marketing

Anneshia Hardy | The Hardy Exchange

Do you socialize with your target audience?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Word-of-mouth can make or break a business?” This is particularly true, regardless of your industry. In the past, the bulk of trusted business referrals were derived mainly from friends, family, and co-workers. In the days before social media, negative company experiences might have stayed within an individual's circle of friends; now, stories of bad customer service and disappointing products can run quickly through social media networks. It has become more difficult for companies to contain its negative publicity. Although bad publicity spreads rapidly, the upside is that social media stretches the reach of good publicity as well. Today, thanks to the phenomenon known as social media, trusted referrals are found in an online circle of friends that can span well in the hundreds of thousands. In an effort to maximize their social media strategies, organizations are examining the obscure structure of online relationships and communities. Social media has become the new “Word-of-mouth” and the new window for shoppers to view as they “walk” by your store in cyber space. Business Insider published an article on a study conducted by the Hawaii International Conference on System Science regarding how serious individuals take activities conducted on social media. Christopher Sibona, the study author, explained,

"People think social media is just for fun…..But in fact what you do on those sights have real-world consequences.” Sibona then goes on to explain the attractiveness of online relationships by saying, “The cost of maintaining online relationships is really low, and in the real world, the costs are higher.” - Christopher Sibona

Why are some organizations being so Anti-Social?

Believe it or not, despite scholarly research and industry evidence of success, there are a quite a few organizations that are still skeptical about incorporating a robust social media strategy. Max Nisen, a Business Insider author, pointed out that many organizations are hesitant because social media can be an “unruly and occasionally risky medium.” Nisen’s statement could become dreadfully true for an organization, especially if there is a lack of training, expertise, and a clear cut strategy present to implement a social media campaign. In a study regarding pinpointing your social media strategy, Idea Watch provides an example of a company who implemented a social media campaign without a clear strategy, stating that companies start out well, but lose focus as their efforts expands. Considering the various innovative platforms and tools continuously emerging, an organization can easily approach social media from a tactical perspective versus a strategic viewpoint. Developing a social media strategy is more than simply updating and posting information notifying the World Wide Web that a new product or service is available or on sale.

A social media strategy is considered advantageous and a success when an organization is able to engage and interact with their target audience on a continuous basis. In today’s emerging media driven environment, organizations simply can’t afford to be anti-social. They have to work the social sphere found in cyber space. Unfortunately, long gone are the days where an organization can create a buzz worthy campaign by publishing their product, services, and benefits through traditional media channels. For example, organizations such as Apple Inc. have mastered the art of social media by appealing to the sentiment of their various target consumers through the development of social media campaigns that differentiate from their traditional advertisement campaigns. Social media is about connecting with your target consumers on a more authentic level. The widespread of social media has driven organizations to compete for customers’ attention in an environment where everyone is considered a friend. Therefore, organizations can’t afford to be anti-social, they are forced to resemble a person and form a relationship.

Wait!! You can’t just dive in..

Although there are many reasons to get social, remember social media can be a risky place for organizations. There are various risks an organization assumes by entering into the social sphere. It is almost impossible to track every comment, post, picture, employee activity conducted on social media. Unfortunately, one bad post or tweet could prove to be detrimental to any organization. 

Some common disadvantages of organizations engaging in social media activity are:

Negative or Misleading Statements

Social media is an enormous conversation everyone is invited to join; with all that talk, it's difficult for businesses to track statements about their brand that are negative or even defamatory. Companies have the added burden of tracking statements and responding when necessary; the response, however, might be of limited effect if the negative statement has already made the social media rounds.

Accidental Release of Confidential Information

Individuals with inside knowledge of the company might inadvertently blurt out confidential information, damaging the company's competitive advantage. Before social media, a letter sent to the wrong address or even an email that ended up in the wrong inbox could be retrieved and the information kept under wraps. In the world of social media, the sheer numbers mean that once confidential information is out, it's out!

Unauthorized Employees Speaking on Company's Behalf or Bashing the Organization.

It's difficult for companies to monitor employee social media activity and prevent them from speaking on company matters without authorization. In the era of engagement, companies might strive for employees to have the ability to assert their personalities online; however, this freedom comes with the risk that even a well-meaning social media post about a company's perceived objectives and direction can damage the company's reputation or challenge the company's assertions to investors.

Don’t worry there are just as many reasons to be social than there are to be anti-social, which essentially is why many organizations opt to develop a robust social media campaign; the return on investment is definitely worth the risk. For a list of advantages of incorporating a social media strategy, check out my previous post, “Get Moving...Go Mobile.” Social media will continue to extend well beyond our imagination. Avery Holton and Mark Coddington, in a case study, pointed out that the rapid growth of social media has caused a challenge for organizations that rely on elements of communication and public engagement; mainly due to the gap between the application of social networking sites and their incorporation into business models. It is essential for strategic communicators to remain current on emerging media trends and how to utilize them to engage target consumers.

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