Are There Too Many Voices on Social Media?

When social networks like Facebook really started to emerge, circa 2006 and 2007, one of the primary success drivers was the voice it gave to those who previously struggled to be heard. This phenomenon really began with bloggers since blogs and free platforms like WordPress gave them an outlet to share their ideas and opinions.

The Golden Age of Social Media

Some of these bloggers looked at this new form of media as a hobby or something lighthearted. They began compiling recipes or created a persona online. Others looked at it as their opportunity to be included with the big boys. For instance, websites such as Mashable began as a blog, but now are viewed as a news source like so many other traditional media players.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that many of those bloggers that began as a hobby have now created their own business venture out of it. Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman, is a perfect example of this. Her blog became exceedingly popular, and as a result, the Food Network added her to its roster by giving her a show!

Social Media Growing Pains

As this was happening on blogs, social media networks like Facebook and Twitter helped these blogs to go viral, which created, yet again, a new type of voice and even more opportunities to be heard. Social networks also allowed grassroots groups to be empowered to advocate change. Some of this chatter, however, began to become mindless. Twitter was known as the network for telling the world what you had for breakfast.

The discussions on social networks weren’t all like this though. Businesses began jumping on board because this now allowed the mom and pop shops to compete with household brands. Anyone remember this happy place?

We’re not trying to be negative, but the fact of the matter is, social media has greatly expanded since the aforementioned large emergence in 2006. Though this growth has brought many new opportunities that weren’t possible back then, it’s also created some new challenges. The mindless chatter, for example, has overly saturated many networks. As this has happened, the audacity factor has risen. In other words, the need to be heard has become so great that people will say almost anything to feed this urge.

At first, an offensive situation would arise and people would take to social media. Brands would get a wakeup call and, in some cases, take action. For example, if someone felt an ad was offensive and took their position to social media, some brands have responded and corrected their ads or clarified their points. But today, with so many people are sharing their voice, is anyone actually being heard?

We’ve all seen this happen with our personal accounts with those friends that feel the need to share absolutely everything. The irony is that these are the very people that frequently contemplate deleting their accounts or ask for the drama to be removed!

Jon Ronson recently gave a compelling TED talk on this issue. Check it out:

As he explains the demise of a PR professional, he noted:

“Twitter is basically a mutual approval machine. We surround ourselves with people who feel the same way we do, and we approve each other, and that’s a really good feeling. And if somebody gets in the way, we screen them out. And do you know what that’s the opposite of? It’s the opposite of democracy.”

He summarized his talk with this profound statement:

“Maybe there’s two types of people in the world: those people who favor humans over ideology, and those people who favor ideology over humans. I favor humans over ideology, but right now, the ideologues are winning, and they’re creating a stage for constant artificial high dramas where everybody’s either a magnificent hero or a sickening villain, even though we know that’s not true about our fellow humans. What’s true is that we are clever and stupid; what’s true is that we’re grey areas. The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people. But we’re now creating a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.” (Emphasis added)

Though not to this extreme, thank goodness, the same mentality is happening with businesses as well. Sometimes it’s a hasty move on behalf of the social media manager in an attempt to be funny or associate with a trend, but whatever the case, it can dramatically hurt a brand’s image. Many brands such as LG and American Apparel have had to overcome such challenges.

What Can Marketers Do?

This is a lot of information to swallow, especially coming from a social media firm. To be clear, we are NOT recommending that businesses jump the social media ship. But it is very important to understand where we all are on this social media journey and how it began. In the TED talk above, it’s imperative to note that Ronson is referring to individuals, not businesses. He’s right about the surveillance society that has risen upon social media. Still, this doesn’t mean brands should shy away. There are just too many opportunities that brands would miss if social media were removed from their toolbox. It does, however, mean that brands should be extremely careful with how they portray themselves on social networks.

It’s true that the game of social media has gotten much harder as social networks have grown. Since so many businesses are competing for the same consumers’ time, their options are to:

  1. Provide really great content
  2. Utilize targeted advertising
  3. Be outlandish

Not surprisingly, we recommend going with the first two options. Positive voices are still very effective on social media. It takes skill and caution, but social media for businesses continues to be a strong marketing asset for small and large brands.

If you’d like to learn how we can help your brand and its social media efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

How to Really Connect with Your Facebook & Twitter Audience

Connecting on SoMeAs social media has grown and evolved, the reasons people use it vary. In the past, many users would keep their Facebook accounts more personal and reserve LinkedIn for strictly business. Though some still try to stick by these rules, the lines have gotten blurred. I often hear people say they would like to delete their personal Facebook accounts but can’t because their attached to their business’s page or because that’s how they keep up with their family. What’s more, people seem to be going back to the idea of wanting a more private network such as Instagram. What do you prefer?

It’s actually a bit of a catch 22. We marketers wanted social media to grow. We wanted to draw consumers in and convince businesses that they should adopt marketing through their social channels. Yet, as this has happened, each network has become much more saturated making marketing much harder.

News & Social Media                                  

In a new study from the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation called “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook,” 63 percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they viewed both Twitter and Facebook primarily for news. Understandably, Twitter is considered the best channel for breaking news with just 31 percent going to Facebook for news to break.

Pew & Twitter and Facebook's Impact on News

Other interesting findings from this study include:

  • The rise in the share of social media users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.
  • When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations.

Marketing Impact

Does this information matter to marketers? Yes! Marketers need to know the reasons their audience goes to each social channel. Now, most small-to-medium-sized businesses do not always relate to hard news, but since statistics show a large portion looking for news, marketers need to tailor their content accordingly. Here’s how:

1. Avoid Fluff Content

Audiences everywhere have gotten smarter, but this is especially true for social media audiences. No one has time for fluffy, salesy content. It doesn’t make people want to follow your page or buy your products or services. Instead, it turns people off.

2. Be Authentic

If people have their eyes opened for news, they don’t want to play games. This doesn’t mean that humor can’t be incorporated, but it does mean that every business should have a clear and direct strategy. In other words, don’t post just to be posting. Keep your goals in mind, watch audience trends, and honestly communicate with your audience. It’s really not difficult, but so often, marketers neglect being real, which can severely hurt them.

3. Piggyback on News Event (But Use Caution)                                                                                                                      

When possible, use a news event to your advantage. For instance, if a famous person passes away, use an inspirational quote from them and turn it into a meme. Another situation could be that your state or the government is passing legislation that could help your industry or businesses in general. Political involvement can be controversial, but if your business is passionate either way on an issue, you should let your voice be heard. If you have correctly identified your audience, they will likely support your stance as well.

It’s important to understand that the “when possible” mentioned above has to carefully be taken into consideration. It’s up to the business, but we would not recommend trying to piggyback on the recent SCOTUS ruling or Iran, for example. While these are no doubt very popular topics on Facebook and Twitter, these topics could alienate your business. Your posts could go viral, but not in the way you want. And, when it comes to social media, bad publicity is very real and brings a host of reputation management issues.

Doing this correctly is more about taking a tragedy and creating an online contest to give your audience an opportunity to contribute. Or, creating a meme as suggested above. It’s also about thinking on your feet like Arby’s did with Pharrell Williams during last year’s Grammy awards.

Ultimately, connecting with your Facebook and Twitter audiences depends on how well you know them. Studies like the one from Pew Research Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation help to show trends that may create opportunities for better engaging with your audience. But, it’s up to you as a marketer to do your research and see if it applies.

Reputation Management: Why Credible Influence Always Wins

Woman Shouting into Megaphone

Trust is an interesting concept online, isn’t it? The Internet has quickly become the most desirable resource for information. We, as consumers, depend on websites, stranger reviews and much, much more for answers and tips ranging from sickness to brand recommendations.

Remember the “French Model” State Farm commercial from a couple of years ago? We all laugh when we see it, but do we really believe that “They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true”?

Today, with so much information online, discerning the credible and the non-credible can be quite the challenge, which is why reputation management plays such a vital role. What are people saying about you and your business? Is it accurate? Unfortunately, a lot of the information online is not.

What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of misinformation is done in the name of marketing! Now, there are marketing tactics that can be done to build a reputation online. But, these are very different from the culprits behind the fake reputation builders, also known as crowdturfers. These fake reputation builders on social media have grown similar to the content farms that plagued the search industry a few years back.

Buying Twitter Followers Fiverr

A paper was released recently that outlines this behavior. In partial support from Google, researchers from Utah State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University came together to not only shed light on the serious matter that it is, but to also offer solutions for detecting this behavior.

“Automatically detecting crowdturfing gigs is an important task because it allows us to remove the gigs before buyers can purchase them, and eventually, it will allow us to prohibit sellers from posting these gigs,” the paper reads. “To detect crowdturfing gigs, we built machine-learned models using the manually labeled 1,550 gig dataset.”

While these fast reputation-building techniques may be tempting, they don’t win. Especially since this new research shows how to detect them, they will be even less effective. In order to truly win in this game, you must build a viable reputation the old-fashioned way – through hard work. While it is hard work, it’s not as difficult as you may think. In all honesty, building reputation and influence in today’s digital world can actually happen rather quickly.

Do your research

For starters, you have to know what’s already out there. Conduct market research. Google yourself and your brand. Do you like what you find? Are your public profiles up to date and consistent? This is the logical starting place to understand what needs improving before you start making changes. Otherwise, your efforts could be ineffective.

Identify what you want to be known for

As you do your research, see if there is a particular theme. Does one part stand out across the board? This could be anything from customer service to a quality such as speed or reliability. Whatever this theme may be, combine it with your own goals. Everyone sets expectations for themselves and their businesses that they would like to achieve. Now is the time to identify what it is that you want to be influential about.

Be influential, trustworthy, social, human, etc.

From this point on, the fun begins. This is where you actually get to implement and act on who you are. For instance, if you want to be known for transparency, be transparent! You can’t fake this characteristic. If this is who you are, then it will come naturally.

Furthermore, as you’ve identified your theme, make sure that you are distributing this focus across your social media channels. Participate in conversations about relevant topics, publish content and more to reinforce your niche.

As you push this message out, remember to be human and social. You may have a remarkable niche, but if you’re not distributing it in a “real” way, it could harm your reputation. You should have a strategy, but don’t get too caught up in corporate speak. If you do, you may have trouble building trust. This is the fun part, so keep it exciting.

Monitor!

Lastly, you must monitor your efforts. Monitoring is one of the biggest parts of reputation management. With real-time communication, a reputation could be damaged in a matter of seconds. After all the hard work you put into this, a less than stellar reputation is not what you want, so monitor.

There are multiple tools both free and paid that help in this area as well. Also, Andy Beal and the Marketing Pilgrim team are always producing helpful content for reputation management and particularly monitoring.

Reputation Management: It’s All About The Response

When you’re annoyed, where do you go? When you’re excited about something, where do you go? In the digital age, these destinations are, in many cases, some form of social media. And if you’re on the receiving end of this, the outcome could either be really positive or really negative. The latter, unfortunately, often results in long-term impact.

This is one of the many reasons why reputation management is so important. Crises that come with reputation management concerns are every company’s nightmare. While some crises occur regardless of how much you prepare, the real key is how you respond. It’s really just an extension of customer service.

How responsive is your brand online? Do you have a reputation management plan?

When people take to social media, they want to be heard. They want to get something good or bad off their chest. If it is something good, they want to have someone applaud and congratulate them. If it is something bad, they want sympathy or acknowledgement of how they’ve been wronged. This is when they often involve the brand.

What do you do when this happens to your brand? The truth is, it’s not easy, but maintaining and restoring your brand’s reputation is possible. For starters, even before a crisis happens or someone says something negative about your brand, you need to have to have a plan in place. An in-depth plan is great, but sometimes small businesses are pulled in so many different other directions that they don’t have the time for this. But, there are strategies such as having a generic statement prepared for crisis situations that even the smallest of businesses can do.

This way, when a reputation management issue arises, you can respond quickly and thoughtfully. We’re not saying that you have to respond within the minute or even 5 minutes of the outreach, but you shouldn’t let too much time slip by before you address it. You want your audience to feel important, and if too much time passes, they could feel belittled. It also depends on which platform the comment or question has appeared. If it’s Twitter, the response will need to come more quickly than on Facebook due to the real-time functionality of Twitter. According to SocialBakers, Twitter is actually where brands will most likely hear from their customers.

SocialBakers ChartHowever, even though responding in a timely fashion is imperative, you can’t be hasty. The response needs to be meaningful. You don’t want your customers to think that you have a troll pushing out automated responses. There needs to be depth and reason to your response. Now, it is acceptable to send a series of responses or take the conversation private through email or messages, but you want to always make sure the audience knows you care.

Secondly, it’s very important that brands respond with honesty and transparency. The process of branding is all about building a trusted name and reputation. So, if you have done this, you don’t want to blow all your hard work on not giving your customers what they want. There is nothing worse than feeling misled. You don’t always have to reveal all the details, but you do want customers to feel like they are getting the full story.

In 2012, NM Incite and Nielsen released a report on the state of social customer service. Among the findings, the report found the impact of one negative comment could counter up to five positive comments:

NM Incite Chart on Social Media

Remember Target’s massive credit card breach that occurred back in December? The retailer received a lot of backlash for withholding information during this time. After some of the initial buzz died down, in January, news came out that 70 million more customers were targeted by the breach. What’s more, as even more information has come out, Target recently said it declined to act early even though it knew. Do you think the retailer could have avoided some of this backlash had it been transparent? It’s very possible.

One of the best ways that reputation management issues can be resolved is through listening. What is the real concern? Having this understanding helps you better respond and address the issue. This also helps you to address issues early. Constant Contact posted the following quote on Facebook recently:

Constant Contact Quote

This is very true in regards to reputation management. Having this active presence and listening helps to provide both a human and personal touch to your brand. Beyond this, it sends the message that you care.

GM is another brand that is going through some of these issues currently. As you’ve probably heard, the automaker is experiencing the recall of 1.6 million cars that are linked to 12 deaths. However, GM is maintaining its social activity. Yes, there are negative comments and outcries that the company is addressing, but GM is still maintaining its social media strategy by promoting jobs, conducting contests, boasting new technology, and more to show that there is more to its name than the recall.

As unfortunate as it can be, missteps happen. But, brands can either break down as a result of opposition, or they can rise above it and move forward. It’s all about the response.

Display image courtesy of gottmanblog.com.