August 2012

Power of Social Media

The Power of Social Media: Why It’s Influential and Relevant to Any Organization

By: Yin Chang, Phoenix Marketing Communications

Everyone talks about how social media is revolutionizing the way we communicate, how news is spread and how marketing is being changed forever. All you need to look at is social media’s role in some of today’s most recent events – from the Egyptian revolution; to Ashton Kutcher’s public Joe Paterno fumble and subsequent apology; to Officer Anthony Easterling’s post-July 4th Facebook post blurring the lines between personal and professional. While people may not agree on the method or “correct” uses for social media, there three universal truths about social media: It is here to stay. It is influential. It has changed the way we live and communicate.

So, how can or why should organizations consider social media important? While I can think of a dozen reasons, we’ll start with four basic, but main reasons how organization should leverage social media.

Influence equals power. Social media is all about influence and the more you have, the more you (your company/organization) can affect change, influence buying choices, become a leader in your industry, etc. Studies have shown that more than a quarter of the time spent online, people are using social networks with 80% of these users seeking to make a purchase.

Just look at Ashton Kutcher’s 8 million-plus Twitter followers. Granted, he’s a celebrity, but he’s a celebrity that has harnessed the power social media and has become a powerful life styles influencer. He’s not a celebrity just using social media. In my opinion, he’s a celebrity who has tied together his public image with his social media Twitter feed to retain loyal fans, acquire new fans and to continue to boost his career. Because if it’s up to Ashton’s acting abilities and career, let’s just say he may not have landed that lucrative Nikon CoolPix endorsement. Ashton is purportedly one of the most influential Hollywooders out there. Since dear old Ashton started endorsing Nikon CoolPix achieve robust sales with a 23.9% increase in unit sales in Nikon digital cameras overall in 2011 when consumers were reluctant to spend on consumer electronics.

Build and retain a loyal base. When the strategy and implementation plan are well thought out, social media tools can help an enterprise build a fan base for the company, its products or services or even for the CEO. It’s not just about building a Facebook page and profile or setting up a Twitter account or creating a blog. While you may be pushing out information that your followers want, the power of social media is in the followers. Your followers are looking for information or just want to be kept updated, but the real power is the ability to turn those followers into true believers or fans, if you will, and become ambassadors for your brand. Think about Apple and how it turned its consumers into the biggest fans of Apple products. Apple’s cult-like following already existed prior to the social media scene, but now with social media, the vitality and viral-ness of the Apple brand and its products online have left the wings of being cult-like and have become part of the culture. A fixture in today’s world and a “must have” according to millions, the first year launch of the iPhone can only be judged as spectacularly successful even with connection issues. Case and point, even when it was uncovered that Apple’s iPhone settings was the reason for the dropped calls issue, there was a short wave of grumping, but shortly thereafter, it was back to the “I heart Apple” mindset. Social media tools are essential for hardware companies to retain loyalty or bring back customer loyalty.

Crisis control. People love to gossip and they love nothing better than a PR disaster. It gives them something to talk about, but now they can go online and word is easily spread. Social media not only immediately alerts you of the crisis – at times before it can hit the press – but it allows you to either quickly put out the fire, get your message out there or maintain some semblance of control. Unlike media outlets like newspapers and broadcast news, social media “news” may not always be credible. Your brand needs to be protected and that means proactive social media plans.

Shifting customer complaints to brand loyalists. From the perspective of a reseller, software publisher and consumer electronics refurbisher, there are a lot of things that can go wrong – from buggy software (Hello, Microsoft!) to failed equipment. This can often lead to a frustrated corporate IT person willing to Tweet away the night or even general consumer who will post how disappointed he/she is with a refurbished replacement product. The issue use to simply be how influential is that single person, meaning how many persons are they reaching within their network and maybe a second or third degree from separation. But now, the game has changed and many social network posts are searchable online. These complaints and misunderstandings can be leveraged to build a strong loyalty using social media with some good old-fashioned customer service, but left alone to fester online or to build a following or group of additional complaints can hurt your business.

Organizations must monitor social networks or set-up a site search for key terms to flag any issues. There are many tools out there that can help monitor online. Then, proactively target each complaint individually. Yum! Brands, the parent company for KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Long John Silvers, has been training their employees on how to handle customer complaints using B.L.A.S.T. (Believe. Listen. Apologize. Satisfy. Thank). Taking that framework into account, any company can use it and apply it to how to deal with complaints and outright slams on social networks.

Another good example is Comcast on Twitter. While Comcast is the company that everyone loves to hate, it has done an incredible job with its Twitter customer service rep @ComcastSteve, who monitors Twitter for dissatisfied clients and even helps to smooth the way to creating an internal “Level 2” service ticket, which means better technical help services. I should know since Steve Teow (a.k.a. @ComcastSteve) helped me personally when I had no internet service for 2 days (Thank goodness for my back-up Verizon MiFi!).

Social Media: What does it take?

Now, for a reality check. Things to know about social media before you begin:

1- It takes some fore-thought. There are so many people who decide to dive into a half a dozen different social media sites, but have little to no direction. Before you begin using social media, ask yourself some basic questions: What’s the objective? What do you hope to achieve (in results)? Which social media sites make the most sense? Who is my target audience and where do they reside?

2- Social media is a tactic, not a strategy. No matter how many times I say this, only the most strategic and seasoned executives listen. I wish I could take credit for being one of the few who talk about social media as a tactic, but any marketer worth their salt should/would know this. While social media can be a solution, it’s still only a tactic.

3-  Time. People think it managing social media tools is all about writing and posting. Shouldn’t take any time at all, right? WRONG! Aside from the fact that writing does take time, social media tools is not a write, post and forget. There are numerous other considerations and actions such as active monitoring for an industry or organization, tagging or even geotagging, starting conversations, building relationships, etc. Social media is similar to networking and it takes time and care.  

So where do you go from here? Start with just looking and listening on any of the social media sites you might find interesting. Start following conversations. In my next article, I’ll offer up ideas on specific social media sites and their benefits including ideas on how to leverage them.