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Do we really need to be social on social media?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 5th August 2010

There’s no shortage of ‘social media gurus’ out there, always keen to hail the advantages of interaction, engagement and conversation as the vital pillars of any social media strategy.

But, I wonder if these words have lost their meaning as they are bandied around so much by the great and the good of the marketing industry. Because, the simple fact is,  social media channels can be used for ‘push’ marketing. Twitter can be used to broadcast messages out to an audience, blogs can act as glorified news feeds and Facebook can merely become a distribution channel for product or service updates. But, it doesn’t mean they should.

Tech brands aren’t using social media to be social

If research we’ve published today stands up, this is exactly how many brands are using social media. Our benchmark study of 50 of the UK’s up and coming technology brands – ‘Putting the social into social media’ – found a distinct lack of social media participation:

  • 43% of brands with a Twitter account had never replied to a tweet
  • Only 3% of the tweets in the study were retweets and just 12% were replies
  • Only 25% of brands reply to followers’ comments on their Facebook accounts
  • 9% of companies replied to comments on their blog

It’s impossible to tell what the impact of this is for the businesses assessed compared to the resource and effort they put in, but it does raise the question: do we really need to be social on social media?

Of course, as I mentioned above, social media channels can be used however you want. But what about user expectations? If someone tweets at your brand or leaves a question on your blog, don’t they expect a response? And what happens if you then ignore this? What does that do to their perception of your brand?

This ‘danger of not doing it’ argument pales into insignificance when you look at the benefits of being social.

The social media challenge advantage

The truth is, social media gives brands a unique and totally new opportunity. An opportunity to build and interact with communities of customers, prospects and influencers.

I’m a realist; I don’t expect brands to ignore the ‘push’ techniques that have served them so well in the past. But, to really get the most out of social media, brands need to work hard to develop two-way relationships with users. Despite what you read in the marketing press, this doesn’t need to involve vast sums spent on wacky, creative campaigns.

Sustainable social media is a phrase we’ve started using here at Wildfire HQ recently (we’ll blog more about it soon) and it relates to the fact that, to really excel in social media activity, brands needs to become social from the ground up. The requires a certain mind-shift and a revaluation of what ‘marketing’ in its purest form actually means.

It’s certainly a challenge, but those who get it right stand to gain.

Danny Whatmough