Clients aren’t necessarily looking to replace online marketing, search, customer relationship management or e-newsletters – on the contrary, these segments are vital – but they are also using social media to enhance the customer experience.
Over the last year, we’ve noticed a different marketer emerging from the underground of social networks. Our clients are taking social media more seriously and we’re seeing new job titles emerge such as social media strategist, social media optimisation manager and social media traffic manager.
I was chatting with Ian Lyons, the newly appointed social media director at digital marketing agency Amnesia Razorfish.
“The faltering economy will drive some to desperate short-term marketing efforts but customers won’t react well to a hard sell or manipulation,” he says. “Consumers are being more careful where they spend their money – they’re looking for brands they can trust. If a brand behaves in an authentic and decent... way in a public forum, then that will engage the customer far more effectively”.
We got onto the subject of Telstra, which has set up a team to engage with frustrated customers who bitch or vent their frustration about the company over Twitter.
“Part of the Twitter team’s job is to monitor what’s being said about Telstra and to proactively offer help to try and solve customer problems,” says Ian.
“This is nothing new and has been part of a customer care and call centre function for many years, but what’s interesting is the conversations are taking place... for everyone to see.
“It’s a great example of seeing a company behaving in a decent way... this gives people watching a level of comfort that they will receive the same support, which in turn can bring them closer to making a purchase decision”.
Yet, companies that make false statements and behave in a dishonest way will be found out quickly and the social network jungle drums will crucify you.
“Because you are entering a community of shared interest and you tend to trust your peers’ comments in such a forum, people react badly if they feel they are being cheated or lied to,” says Ian.
A lot of the ‘Twitterati’ are high-profile bloggers or other people of influence with the online community; they spend a lot of time reporting and giving their point of view on interactions in social networks, so it’s easy for messages to build momentum and bad news to snowball.
So, if you don’t Twitter, have no idea what a wiki or a widget are, or think digg and RSS are something to do with animals, pop online and do some research.
Of course, it may not be a way to quick riches, according to John Butterworth, chief executive of the Australian Interactive and Multimedia Industry Association.
“It’s hard to say if social media generates real customers that equate to selling more products or services, as it’s early days for... [monitoring] the data from social media,” he says. “We’re not sure if people have cracked it yet!”
But one thing is certain: it ain’t going away!
Sally Mills is CEO of executive recruiment firm LaVolta
This article originally appeared in NETT Magazine March 2009