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First Technology Techno Forum goes social

27 May

Category colourworks

Thursday 26 May 2011 heralded the second First Technology Techno Forum of the year. The conference highlighted a topical issue for many businesses and their marketing mix: social media in the business environment. With the latest Gartner statistics predicting that by 2015 more than 50% of sales worldwide will be conducted via social media, conference-goers were keen to find out how to incorporate the various networking platforms into their marketing strategies.

Speakers Andre Hugo (Deloitte) and Scott Gray (Head of Strategy at Quirk) shared their insights on how social media is being used effectively by businesses all over the world. At the core of social media, said Hugo, lies good old-fashioned customer service. Companies need to be well aware that 400 000 followers means zilch if only 3 of them are loyal customers. While it’s certainly not a passing fad, social media is indeed a buzz term that has many misguided companies ditching all other forms of marketing in favour of Facebook, Twitter and a blog. Hugo stressed that this is not the way to go about it, a sentiment vehemently reaffirmed in this recent article that is currently doing the rounds.

Hugo went on to tell how Deloitte is using social media internally as a means to streamline communication (less email traffic) and also to crowdsource new business ideas. The firm uses microblogging platform, Yammer, to communicate internally, and has a flexible policy when it comes to staff using social media platforms at work. As is widely acknowledged, banning social networking in the workplace will simply result in employees doing it on the sly or using their smartphones to access Facebook and Twitter. Deloitte embraces this fact by allowing employees to access networking sites at certain times of the day, minimising interruptions in productivity and the draining of bandwidth. The company also draws on the talent of its people first when it is looking to innovate. A crowdsourcing model that incorporates a voting system is used to unearth new business ideas. This results, says Hugo, not only in the founding of useful new ideas, but also in the development of advocates for the ideas themselves.

Hugo went on to talk about the accessibility that Twitter provides to thought leaders, celebrities and CEOs. Social networking provides a certain democratization of media, in that everyone now has a place to voice their concerns. Bad service is immediately splashed all over Twitter, and where in the past the CEO would never hear about it, he is now likely to be on Twitter to handle the issue him or herself. As both Hugo and Gray pointed out, it is senseless to try and ‘control the conversation’.

In many ways, Scott Gray pointed out, handling social media crises like online complaints and the like actually comes back to basic PR. The trick is to get to the source of the complaint, appease them, and, of course, to do your best to move beyond it with some good press. In the world of social media this can literally mean using content and effective SEO to push bad content down in ranking, or out of immediate view in the stream of media.

Gray cited a few interesting examples of companies that utilise social media intuitively to add value to the lives of their consumers. Nike+ does this extremely effectively with their running community by enriching their running experience with an array of helpful tools – playlists, stats, hints and tips and more. In this way they position themselves as thought leaders in their field – an example of a brand using social media as an effective part of their marketing mix.

Gray highlighted the sheer magnitude of social networking platforms and the power they hold with a few impressive numbers:

  • There are 48 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 5 billion minutes a day are spent on Facebook worldwide
  • YouTube cites 3 billion video views a day

The way marketing is shaped has clearly been completely transformed. As Gray said, the megaphone has been taken away from advertised, and a much larger one has been given to consumers. It is up to businesses to use their social media strategies to build brand awareness, loyalty and respect for their brands in a way that is meaningful. Some companies do this effectively by electing a designated thought leader, like Steve Rubel at Edelman. Others, like McKinsey, use their people to create a living catalogue of their thinking, services and support networks.

Our key insight for the day was this: RELEVANCE. Social media needs to add value to the lives of consumers in order for it to be translated into sales, loyalty and awareness. Consumers are growing savvier by the day, and the days of poor service and poorer excuses are over. Brands must reassess their marketing strategies so that they can use social media to its full potential within their broader marketing strategy.