Current Trend: Power to the people
The role of the individual has always been debated in economics. Is the market
independent of individual's thoughts, actions and feelings? The theories of
economic sociology support the idea that the market does not function
independently of people's emotions, culture, politics and a million and one
other influencers, rather than a base desire to merely consume.
So how does this relate to the use of social media in business?
In short, the consumer has regained control of the market. They now control the
dialogue and conversations surrounding businesses and consumer products and
services, and by that I mean they ensure that conversations and dialogue in
social media remain completely transparent. Businesses and large corporations no
longer have ultimate control of their brand reputation. Advertising and other
forms of controlled and crafted messages directed at consumers have lost a lot
of their impact. Online conversations about a service or product are where
people go to source unbiased information and make their consumer choices.
In research conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Tealeaf that
looks at the social customer and the powerful effect they have on a brand's
reputation 51% said social media has influenced their transactions and 74% said
when they read a negative comment online it influenced their likelihood to do
business with the company. Further to that 56% avoided a particular vendor after
reading bad reviews, but 52% used a particular vendor after reading good
reviews. As a point of interest when sharing experiences on social networks and
blogs, 33% would like to get a vendor response (http://www.tealeaf.com/harris-uk).
So what does this mean for businesses?
It means that not only is it an option to give your business a presence in the
online realm of social media, but it is essential! It is now imperative for
businesses to monitor, listen and actively engage in dialogue 'out there' about
their brand, products and services. People will listen to bad reviews as seen in
the above statistics, and people will be encouraged by positive feedback.
There is no doubt social media is making businesses, governments and
corporations more accountable. Looking at the social media campaigns of NGO's
offers an insight into this enforced social responsibility and accountability
that is evolving. The Greenpeace driven Nestle backlash was a prime example of
Members of the public took to social media sites to criticise the confectionery
giant, following reports that it was continuing to source palm oil from Sinar
Mas, an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation of rainforests.
Greenpeace gained consumer interest by posting an online video that featured an
office worker accidently biting into an orangutan finger instead of a Kit Kat.
The video aimed to draw attention to the NGO's ongoing battle with Nestle over
its supply chain.
The criticism has also spilled over on to Twitter, with users Tweeting Nestle's
Facebook page and encouraging people to go on to see the comments posted online.
Another example is the recent BP oil spill saga. This has direct comparisons to
the Nestle backlash with "Boycott BP' pages popping up all over social media
networks such as Facebook.
So how do businesses and brands combat this potential negative social media
backlash? It's all about strategy. When formulating a social media strategy it
is often about a pre-emptive attack, for lack of a better term. Social media
strategies need to incorporate timely responses to negative feedback and a
monitoring of all dialogue surrounding the business. Social media and consumer
participation, applied in the right way and at the right time, will not just
help your brand, but are absolutely crucial to its survival and evolution.
In positive terms, social media is also a form of accessible market research
with relevant demographics. It enables businesses to gain accurate customer
feedback, and can be a valuable insight when it comes to future product
Businesses must remember... the truth is out there.
By Gill Asbury | @gillasbury