Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Steps forward in Social Media consumer engagement

Perhaps a mile-stone in Social Media, today marks the first time that TV media behemoth the X Factor (USA) has given its public voters an alternative to calling or texting for their favourite musical act on the show: After an initial reluctant approach towards Twitter, media mogul and X Factor producer Simon Cowell has since declared, “the only powerful people on TV are the people on Twitter and Facebook.”

Twitter has invested in this new technological advancement (which sees voters submitting vote via Direct Messaging) and at this stage is reluctant to reveal whether the move is likely to be profitable. The hope however, is that the financial benefits in the future are worth the initial investment.

But what does the X Factor USA aim to achieve through a partnership with Twitter? As Mr Cowell professed himself, “it’s like having millions of producers working with you” in regards to the immediate feedback the show constantly receives, searchable via the Twitter’s own search function. The method could also be a way of obtaining more meaningful information around voters. From Twitter’s perspective, the move signifies a change “from focusing just on engagement” to getting into the creative fabric of shows, letting the audience help change the outcome.

So what does this mean for the future of social media within the infrastructure of brands? Recent research by Constant Contact has found that consumers who engage with brands on Twitter and Facebook are year-on-year increasingly more likely to invest in that brands products, and it’s not just media companies and retailers – social media is influencing everything from politics to the way our services are provided. Companies have to reassess how they communicate now that their customers have a voice: a voice that can ultimately make or break them.

It was recently revealed that US President Barack Obama will be returning to the use of social media channels for his 2012 presidential campaign. Obama famously embraced the power of Facebook and Twitter throughout his 2008 campaign, which ultimately saw him being voted president. This time free blogging site Tumblr has been harnessed with an aim at encouraging voters to interact and share campaign stories. Time will tell if his previous campaign’s success can be repeated, but Obama’s digital marketing strategy of the 2008 election famously spawned many other international politicians into following in his footsteps.

Yet despite social media’s continued success stories and more companies than ever apparently embracing the digital age, there is still a worrying lack of response to the individual customer. Information in social media travels fast, and it is crucial that companies don’t attempt to attempt to overly-control communication in a social media context. Similarly, simply issuing content isn’t enough anymore: Customers are looking to be heard and acknowledged.

Socialbakers is a company who measure and analyse company responses within social media and its findings worryingly show that on Facebook, companies respond to just 5% of customer enquiries on average. More media focused brands however seem to be continuing to pioneer the new way of engaging with customers in an effort to achieve valuable and compelling customer experiences.

Coca Cola have recently made the bold move to no longer rely on traditional ad agencies for their creative ideas. Instead, the global soft drinks brand will be adopting a “crowd-sourcing” approach whereby their feedback and ideas all come via their Facebook and Twitter fans. (Incidentally Coca Cola’s Facebook page is now ran by two genuine brand fans who decided they could do a better job at representing Coca Cola than Coca Cola itself. Coca Cola agreed.)

In an effort to shape the creativity of its portfolio of brands, Coca Cola has realised the potential in allowing consumers to produce the content they want to see, giving the customer a voice and actually listening to what their fans and followers have to say.

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