With all the buzz around corporates using social media, the most pertinent question companies need to ask is, how effective is it?
Recent stats suggest that 43% of businesses using social media have no idea what they're doing with it. The Harvard Business Review released a report
showing that of the 2,100 companies surveyed, only 12% of those using social media feel that they are using it effectively.
Companies often approach social media with one of two attitudes.
The first is a vague understanding of what social media is but no idea how it works or what it actually means to do business with it - especially for business to business organisations. These companies tend to ignore social media and fail to engage with it at all.
Alternatively, companies and executives know about social media, but don't buy into the advantages suggested by its proponents. These companies often include some element of social media in their marketing, but are only motivated by a desire not to be left out of something that "everyone's doing".
In such cases, little attention and investment is given to social media and it's often offloaded to a junior to manage however they see fit.
The most dangerous aspect of these views is that a half-mast or non-existent social media strategy could be more damaging to a business than we realise.
Companies in the first category are often intimidated by how each platform is supposed to work for them. Distinguishing between Twitter and Facebook and the ways in which they can help business objectives is one of the biggest challenges.
The answer is simple. Consumers love variety. Each platform provides a different way for businesses to communicate and contribute to varying depths of online conversation depending on the business' goals.
For example, popular tweets are opinionated and informative, whereas the intention of a Facebook post is primarily to ask questions that spark conversation with consumers and that help research trends - it's not about hard selling.
Another big mistake businesses make with Facebook is allowing their page to become too focused on receiving customer feedback. This is dangerous as a Facebook page can quickly become a venting platform, which ultimately damages brand integrity, and it's also frustrating for consumers who don't get a resolution to their complaint. Social media is a beast with no neck to chop off, so it's best to make it a place that inspires constructive conversation rather than a brick wall for angry mobs to throw eggs at.
As marketing teams wade out into the dark waters of corporate social media use, the most important thing to do is to take it seriously. Where managers are sceptical and unwilling, badly executed brand pages and accounts can detract from the integrity of a company's product or image. But where it's well managed, consumer interaction is increased and brand awareness rises.