HL:Companies take the bad with the good when they embrace social media@
(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MONTREAL _ Businesses, large and small, are getting online personalities on social networking sites like Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube and blogs.
Corporations are engaging in online conversations about products, service and problems, but "if all you are doing is sitting there and talking about yourself, no one is going to listen," says Jenn Lowther, director of social media for 6S Marketing, a Vancouver Internet marketing company.
U.S. airlines JetBlue and Southwest, computer maker Dell and telecom provider Comcast are "big, big players" in social media and are considered to be doing it right, Lowther said.
Big Canadian corporations lag a bit behind the Americans in social media, she said, but smaller companies have adopted Twitter, the popular microblogging service which lets people post comments in 140 characters or less.
Companies shouldn't avoid social media _ and should at least monitor what they contain, Lowther said.
"If somebody is talking about you, whether it's good or bad, inject into the conversation," she said.
"If you're not engaging in any of these conversations, you're not really controlling your brand online at all. It's easier than ever for a brand to have a personality online right now."
Among Canadian companies that have been using Twitter are WestJet (TSX:WJA), Research In Motion (TSX:RIM), Telus (TSX:T) and new telecom Globalive's Wireless Soapbox forum for cellphone users.
Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) recently used video-sharing site YouTube to communicate with its employees and the response was positive, said spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur.
"We're following developments in social media with interest," said Arthur, adding that Air Canada isn't using Twitter.
Sales consultant Melanie Playne uses Twitter to make suggestions, follow leads and jump into relevant conversations.
"It gives customers an outlet to follow you without being all corporate," said Playne, who works at NEBS Canada in Midland, Ont. "It keeps everyone in touch on a personal level."
For small businesses such as NEBS, which helps other small enterprises with web and payroll services, Twitter provides a presence and lets employees show themselves personally, Playne said.
McGill University management professor Karl Moore said many companies are learning about social media by trial and error.
"Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes," he said.
One of the hardest things for companies to do is give up control of their message, said Moore.
But by doing this companies can get "product evangelists" who will tell people how great they are, he said.
"Word of mouth is the most positive form of marketing."
Despite its popularity and millions of users worldwide, more than 60 per cent of Twitter users stop using the service within a month of joining, according to Nielsen Online research.
Twitter can't sustain its "meteoric rise" without a higher level of user loyalty, Nielsen reported this week.
The microblogging service has also has been blighted by cases of what's known as Twitter "squatting" or "jacking" in which a company's name is used by someone else. Twitter has said accounts with clear intent to mislead others will be immediately suspended.
Lowther said companies using social media have to understand the new game.
"Every social media site has its own set of rules on how you engage the community. Not following these rules will get a company called out."
(c) 2009 The Canadian Press
[ Back To TMCnet.com's Homepage ]