First there was print, then radio and television. Each of these outlets share one thing in common; a captive audience that served one too many. Unless the audience had the option or ability at the time to flip the page or channel, or tune to another station, then they were force fed whatever commercialism was being offered to them.
From there, commercialism continued its upward momentum even as recent as the early 2000s, into the digital world and once again, we as consumers accepted what we were told. However, today in 2012 this is not the way things are continuing as we are no longer limited to how or where we get our information. In turn, the way companies and their brands advertise themselves to peddle their goods includes having to learn to change with it. The consuming public no longer accepts the babbling rhetoric as the only option of information about what product is better or which product they should buy.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook or Google (News - Alert)+ are just some of a number of avenues where the world's population can meet on a global scale to talk. Social networks are today's online equivalent to neighborhood block parties and community social mixers or hanging with your buddies in your favorite bar. They are made of people just the same but now the person you are interacting with can be half way across the world, from a different culture and a different person just the same.
It was just recently posted that JC Penny's, GAP, Gamestop and Nordstrom are all closing their Facebook (News - Alert) storefront pages; that was quick they were only opened less than a year. While they opened storefronts with plans to monetize their Facebook fans, they couldn’t figure out how to do so which brought the closing results. What happened? According to Sucharita Mulpuru, “There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop… but it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”
Okay, remember what I just said about how to equate social networks, well as a company how well do you believe you would be received at one of these get togethers where the only thing you said was advertising propaganda to push and peddle your products? Pretty sure you would be tossed out on your keister or shunned into the corner before you got through your first syllable; which is exactly why companies don't do that, so why do you think social networks should be any different.
I know there are tons of articles, e-books and traditional printed materials trying to tell everyone that mobile marketing is the next big thing, and this is where your company needs to be if it wants to survive in today's world. The problem is, you cannot do what you have always done and expect the same results any longer. If you want to use social networks then you have to stop broadcasting in order for it to work.
In fact, the first thing all companies should do when they venture into social networks is stop talking so much and start listening more. Brands and companies want to know what they should post on their Facebook page, or tweet about next then why not ask that question and listen to the response. Once you begin listening to the responses, then become responsive and engage your audience.
Begin practicing the skill of listening more, responding more and engaging more and you will notice that your audience is now turning into a community and you will become trusted among them. Once you begin to gain the trust and once your community starts to form, then your community will begin to grow. The important part of this whole process is being real and relevant. Both of those are going to be tough for any enterprise to embrace and implement because for so long they have been accustomed to say anything and they will come.
So, if you’re a realtor, do not post your listings, but instead speak about neighborhoods or the housing market, or key things to make sure of before applying for a loan. Video game vendors talk about game ratings or product safety tips. Clothing retailers talk about DIY tips around fashion week or changes in school kid clothes (like reinforced knees going away…just saying I could have used a heads up about that one). The odd thing is, once you as a brand or company begin this process and make it a habit you will notice all of a sudden that you will gain some sales out of it.
It’s time to stop using social networks for broadcasting and start using them for what they really are: places to start and have conversations. Whatever you do, make sure you do this, and leave the broadcasting elsewhere. Watch for a follow up to this article where I talk about why you should have everyone in your company involved when it comes to social networks.
David Vaughan is an industry veteran of telecom, now Director of Projects at TSG Global, Inc. To read more of David's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca