Social media is undoubtedly an enormous opportunity for brands.
Most of the leading social networks – especially Facebook – are designed to support and promote large organisations, often at the expense of smaller ones.
Equally, though, there are challenges. Social media offers upstart competitors a low-cost entry to market and gives unhappy customers a platform for complaints.
The big three
So, what are the three biggest social media challenges facing brands today?
“Content is the currency of the social web and the fundamental driver of almost all digital marketing”
Firstly, there’s the organisation’s ability to innovate and to excite potential customers with high-value content.
Be it entertaining, valuable or simply interesting, content is the currency of the social web and the fundamental driver of almost all digital marketing.
Brands such as Red Bull and Absolut Vodka have taken content to a new level using social media and reaped the rewards.
Others that haven’t shown such creativity have floundered.
The second factor is the willingness and ability of internal departments to collaborate across social media.
This is especially pertinent for customer-facing teams such as marketing, customer service, communications and sales, where, if they aren’t working to an agreed set of goals, they inevitably end up working at cross-purposes.
Nowhere is this more public and embarrassing than on a Facebook page, where dumb marketing messages often precipitate a flood of negative comments from disgruntled customers, only to be mopped up by equally irritated customer service agents.
The solution isn’t complex, but it is difficult.
General Motors in the US recently relocated 500 staff to Detroit to create a multi-departmental social media team with shared objectives.
It cost a fortune, but in doing so they reduced their response rate to customer queries on social media from more than 24 hours to under 90 minutes.
“Your reputation can be destroyed by hearsay on Twitter or completely overblown by super-fans on Facebook – and all before you’ve even had your morning coffee”
The third issue involves the need to develop an understanding, at the highest level, that the brand is no longer within the control of the company’s board or employees.
In our social world, how your brand is perceived depends on a multitude of factors.
Your reputation can be destroyed by hearsay on Twitter or completely overblown by super-fans on Facebook – and all before you’ve even had your morning coffee.
The solution is, of course, to build a strong community of online supporters who can be present 24/7 to represent and support your brand in times of need.
But to do this you need to be a genuinely engaging and open company (which isn’t always an easy thing to be) and, critically, you need to know that ROI in social media isn’t measured in sterling, but in trust.
Luke Brynley-Jones is the founder and CEO of Our Social Times