Anyone who has studied marketing or business or has only read one article on marketing, will know that word of mouth is a powerful form of marketing.
When I first started out, trainers would explain that a consumer would communicate a good experience with a brand with 5 or 6 people in their physical community and communicate a bad experience to 15 people.
Today, people spend their lives in crowded digital social networks or communities that are far more fluid and dynamic than those physical communities and as a result, negative brand experiences are communicated quickly and efficiently to large numbers of consumers around the world.
We only have to look at recent brand events with GAP (bad), Philippines (bad) and Qantas (Good) to see the impact of social media on brands. Not only can consumers discuss and voice opinions about brands more vocally, they can now challenge strategic initiatives and tactics used by those brands and influence those initiatives to such an extent that the once powerful brands are forced to review tactics and strategies and take into account consumer needs.
In the physical old world, consumers may have influenced the decisions of a few. Today, in the digital environment, the voices of a few can reach millions and influence their choices, to the detriment of the brand.
If you run a company you probably use a courier to deliver important packages. You use the telephone or fax (maybe for a couple more years) to contact customers.
Not that many years ago you wrote a letter to customers, today you email them. Whereas in the past, you went to the library to source information, today you use Google. In much the same way as these technological developments changed the way we do business, social media is doing the same thing. It isn’t about to do it, it already is. So if you are asking yourself if you sneed a Social Media element to your brand strategy, the answer is yes.
But it is important to understand that developing a social media strategy is not a technological challenge, it is a branding challenge. This means that the responsibility for the social media strategy rests not only with CIO but also with the CMO and the CEO. And they must understand the relationship between the architecture, innovation and the strategy and know how to integrate the three.
If you are the CEO or MD of a SME then you probably don’t have a CIO and a CMO. If this is the case you need to take on the responsibility yourself. You cannot ignore it because Social Media will not go away. Moreover, as more and more people engage with Social Media and join those networks, to the detriment of traditional media, it will be the only way you can reach and collaborate with those consumers and build networks of brand evangelists talking positively about your brand.