by Jim May, PR Manager

Determining The Social Media Vehicles That Fit Your Company

Last week we talked about some of the common misperceptions about social media. Now let’s take a look at some of the specific tools at your disposal.

Is there an audience for your Tweets?
If more companies were honest with themselves in answering that question, a lot less of them would be on Twitter. Anyone who thinks Twitter’s a great tool for marketing their product should take a minute to look up the 100 most-followed Tweeters. It’s a list filled with actors, musicians, athletes, celebrities and the occasional news feed. Those that make the list have attracted anywhere from 1,500,000 to 4,500,000 followers.

Now take a minute to look up some of the world’s most successful brands. How many people do you think are following McDonald’s, Coke, BMW, Honda or Amazon? Would you believe none of them have cracked 20,000? In the case of BMW & Honda, it’s less than 3,000. Or course there are exceptions. By offering coupons for free coffee and pastries via its Tweets, Starbucks has amassed nearly 800,000 followers. Keep in mind, though, the following fact: Throughout 2009, Nielsen Wire reported that only about 30% of monthly Twitter visitors returned the following month. It’s guaranteed that those numbers are abysmally lower within groups of users lured to the site with the promise of free treats. As a general rule, unless you have a group of customers that rabidly seeks out information about your company or products, trying to push communications at people through Twitter is a waste of time.

In my previous entry, I mentioned that many social media tools have more in common with customer service than marketing. For the overwhelming majority of companies, this is especially true with Twitter. The site is a great listening tool, giving you the ability to see what individual customers are saying about your brand. Go there and run a couple searches for keywords associated with your company. If people are talking about you, it’s very likely worth signing up and letting them know that you hear and value their opinion. On the other hand, if no one’s Tweeting about your brand, you’re not going to have anything to respond to. Just make sure to check back from time to time so that you can respond if anyone does take to Twitter to comment on your brand.

Do your customers consider your company a friend?
Nearly everyone’s familiar with sites that allow people to take their social network online and expand it. Friendster led the way, followed by MySpace, which has since been dethroned by Facebook. An October 2009 Mintel report showed that 59% of those ages 18 and up have set up a profile on at least one of these sites. As would be expected, usage is heavier among younger demographics, with 87% of 18-24 year-olds on the sites compared to just 29% of those in the 65+ category.

As social networking sites became prevalent, many marketers worked themselves into a frenzy over the possibility of getting their brand in front of so many eyes. From pop-up ads to corporate profiles, it’s impossible to browse many social networking sites without encountering a slew of brands. By treating these sites as nothing more than a new avenue for traditional advertising, companies have ostracized many of the people they hoped to reach. In fact, that same Mintel report revealed that 34% of all users of social networking sites prefer the sites not allow advertising and other forms of corporate presences. Companies would do well to keep this in mind while developing a strategy for making use of these resources.

Despite some users’ aversion to perceiving advertising on their social networking sites, others are perfectly fine with it. Looking once more at the Mintel report, it showed that 18% of users in the 18-24 segment are friends with or fans of a company via one of their online profiles. Again, that number diminishes drastically with age, dropping to less than 5% of users over age 45. These numbers are an encouraging sign, though they should also be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how the survey at issue did not separately track users who are only friends/fans of their employer.

Like with all social media, the companies that see the greatest return on social networking sites will be those who embrace them as a way to interact with customers, not just point a message at them. For the overwhelming majority of companies, a corporate profile on a social networking site should be about bringing customers together, letting them identify each other and share their experiences with your brand. It’s about strengthening the loyalty of existing customers, not trying to acquire new ones.

Ok, that wraps it up on Twitter and social networking sites. Next week, we’ll talk about whether you should be on discussion boards, YouTube and blogs. Thanks for reading and feel free to shoot me an email at if you have any questions or comments.

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