Joining in on the social media conversation

By Paul Grant

Large commercial brands throughout the world are acknowledging the role of social media amongst the ever-growing population of consumers that use the Internet for their information, work or pure entertainment. Many progressive companies are setting up dedicated teams assigned to the ‘social media project’, because they realise that they too need to join the conversation.

Good old-fashioned word of mouth

Long before the Internet, there were executives, salespeople and marketers who understood the true value of the ‘word of mouth’ sale. In these types of sale so much of the hard work had been done to convince a potential buyer of the features and benefits that a particular product or service may have. More importantly, the person doing the selling was not a paid employee but simply a loyal customer or ‘brand fan’. That is what also made such sales so cost effective, especially when the products could be lifted of the shelf by the consumer and taken to the register all in a matter of minutes. The ‘hot’ items would apparently sell themselves, although in truth the selling was happening out where satisfied customers were spreading the word.

Brand allegiance and customer loyalty

Human beings tend to show allegiance to people and even companies that share similar values or interests to their own. It is hardly surprising that our friends are often interested in the same past-times as us, and that we often have cause to talk about these interests. Some interests are participatory like playing in a team sport, whereas others are merely conversational, such as following celebrity gossip, entertainment news, or even a favourite sporting club.

The human need to share, or perhaps gloat?

Conversation once happened around the water cooler, in the tea room, or over the fence. In such conversations friends and colleagues shared the new and exciting things they had heard about, bought, or discovered. Subsequently a proportion of the captive audience would be likewise influenced into investigating for themselves, often becoming a convert also.

Modern spaces for meeting new faces

In the present time we have a new variety of spaces and places online in which to have these conversations. The virtual water coolers of a new millennium include LinkIn, FaceBook, Bebo and so many others which suit every type of personality, interest or profession. The conversation is much the same in these places, people talking about what they are interested in, what they like or dislike, what they are doing, or what they think about various issues.

Joining the conversation

So it is unsurprising that commercial enterprise wants to be in the conversation too, or to at least occasionally influence the conversation to pull people away from their computers and into a store. Actually, they don’t even need the consumer to physically come to a store, as long as they can divert their attention away from what they are doing and spend some time or money engaging with their brand.

The waning attention span

This is true also of noble causes, not-for-profit organisations, museums, government, and activists as much as it is true of the commercial world. With so many websites and brands vying for the public’s attention, having a strategy that works is imperative.

This type of strategy starts with questions such as: Where are the conversations that we need to be a part of? How can we build a relationship with these people? How can we encourage them to spread the word about us? How can we maintain their attention and gain their loyalty?

Find out how a social media strategy might help your organisation by calling us now on +44 (0) 207 812 6474 or by sending an email to [email protected]

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Meet the Author

Paul Grant