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Marketers must keep up with mobile-social equation

Mobile social media is evolving from a marketing and brand-building tool for companies to a fully-functioning interaction channel. Yet, companies trying to figure out what to do in the growing mobile social media space are navigating through unfamiliar territory. It’s difficult to predict what to pay attention to because of rapidly changing technologies and fickle consumers.

Some companies are publishing random tweets on behalf of their executives, while others are pushing advertisements on mobile devices. However, nothing replaces the need for a coherent strategy — one that maps out how a company will go on the offense and defense as customers share their glee and ire on mobile devices. 

Word of mouth can propel products to stratospheric heights or catastrophic lows. In today’s world, social media lets people share their views with thousands or even millions of others around the globe in minutes — creating a whole new world for word-of-mouth marketing that is trusted significantly more (23% more in a recent Accenture study) than what they find on a corporate website.

The rapid growth of mobile computing devices means that everyone can be “digitally social” outside the home or office — challenging many of the current assumptions around what, where and how customers are “online.” A rapidly growing number of consumers with mobile phones are using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to let others know about good and bad experiences at the very moment they’re having them. The new crop of social media software being built exclusively for mobile devices is resulting in a whole new breed of consumer — highly informed, very bold and extremely picky.

While the technology challenges alone are daunting, companies also face other challenges. Content management requirements will explode as organizations try to optimize the way customers use everything from text-only devices to smartphones (with cameras and video capabilities) and tablet computers. Even if customers like the social media applications they’re using today, there’s no guarantee they’ll love them forever. Social media also compounds the security problems that companies face. Mobile devices are stolen, viruses can run rampant on social applications and breaches can have disruptive consequences to customers and a company’s own operations.

A company can navigate through these unknown areas by assessing the impact of mobile social media to the business, monitoring the “chatter” on mobile devices and tailoring responses based on the specific needs and situations of its customers. It also means that companies need to start understanding where customer contact is happening (e.g., via mobile devices/apps and traditional devices/Web) and for what purposes customers value mobility. Many organizations remain unable to engage or optimize in this new environment, but the mobile ecosystem is too dynamic and important to be a part-time job.

Greg Jenko is executive director of global consulting and technology services firm Accenture’s mobile systems integration practice. He is also a contributor to The Social Media Management Handbook.

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