Is social media really for everyone?

As social media gains popularity, it seems logical for brand and direct marketers to reach consumers on their favorite Web sites. Our experts disagree as to whether the time is right.

Chris Cunningham
Founder and CEO, Appssavvy
More than 10 years experience in digital advertising

Social media constitutes environ­ments, platforms or even applications that people connect to and interact with, often as a way to catch up with friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

I believe social media is the logical next step in the evolution of social networking, a targeted experience that brings together people with a common cause or agenda. Networking events are smaller — niche platforms that are specific to an individual’s professional needs, interests and views.

The media landscape continues to fragment and people only want content that’s specific and intended for them.

Social media environments work be­cause you can pick and choose the ac­tivities you wish to participate in. From your Facebook profile, you can play games, and take quizzes and movie compatibility tests. Gone are the days of having to click to multiple Web sites. Why take extra steps if the content can be delivered to you? This makes social media truly powerful, intriguing and useful to anyone.

These programs offer exciting possi­bilities for brand and direct marketers. I am convinced that social media ap­plications are the pinnacle of any viral and contextual marketing campaign.

Brands need to play a larger role in the social ecosystem. They can engage and connect with people in contextu­ally relevant environments, rather than spamming banners all over the place.

Blake Cahil
SVP of Marketing, Visible Technologies
More than 16 years of marketing, sales and customer experience

Interacting with customers is nothing new. Social media is simply a new channel for customer interaction, offering promise and potential pitfalls. Before diving in, brands and compa­nies need to evaluate if they are ready.

Brands must assess how well they engage with their customers. Are they optimizing those customer interactions? Many would admit they are not. When venturing into this arena, firms should understand the basic principles of inter­acting with consumers in general.

There are reasons why brands or companies may not be ready for social media. They think consumer conversa­tions on the Web or a mobile platform are a fad; they aren’t prepared to learn that consumers may not like their products; they want to outsource con­sumer interaction to marketing or PR agencies; executives won’t support it; they want to launch a blog or program without a strategy; or perhaps the com­pany is afraid of public failure.

Social media participation is becom­ing critical to many brands’ customer service and PR strategy. If your firm is struggling to listen to customers in existing channels, and your marketing programs are stale, social media will not help. It must be an extension of the strategies your organization has for reaching and marketing to customers.

Your customer may already be using social media. Unless you’re ready, you could do more harm than good.

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