Social media – no matter what you read, you are bound to hear this term. It is the popular “phrase of the current times” – is it a buzzword though? I do not think so. Given how blogs, user reviews have influenced my purchasing decisions over the last couple of years, I am true believer that is indeed a trend that is beneficial to the consumer. I do not buy products without reading user reviews (not company’s product review or some expert analyst’s review) on multiple sites. If a product does not have a real user generated review, I am skeptical about how good the product is.
Given this trend, now companies have got into the act as well by using social media to their advantage. Press releases are issued with search engines in mind, employee blogs are on the increase, CEO’s are starting to write blogs…. But if this is not done right, this will backfire. Companies cannot do all of this with their marketing agendas in mind – “authenticity” is the key. Consumers can sniff out “marketing agendas” in no time. The right way to do this is by empowering the users to get started and then sitting back and be willing to listen to good and more importantly the bad news. If there is something “bad” that is mentioned about your company or products, quickly take action to fix the issue and then report back to the user community. This will buy you tremendous credibility because you now have the social media as a large “megaphone” to broadcast to the entire world that you listened, took action and fixed the issue.
Unless companies are willing to embrace the “authenticity” in social media, they cannot expect to use this to their advantage. Rules have changed, users now control your marketing and PR, it is no longer in the hands of your marketing or PR departments. Come to terms with this, embrace it and turn it into a competitive differentiator and you shall succeed.