In last month’s article I introduced both my doctoral research and my personal view on how brands should integrate social media into their corporate structure. I’m lucky enough to have studied social media extensively both theoretically and practically for over two years. I feel that pursuing a consumer behaviour focus marks a distinct difference in my research to many of the social media models, landscapes, and theories that are currently offered.
Many of the models, for example Figure 1, produced by Brian Solis and Jess3, beautifully picture the social media landscape, encompassing the wide range of social services available to internet users.
However if we were to consider social media use in a purchase decision it is likely that not all of the social media typologies in Figure 1 will be used. The complexity of social media is knowing which avenues to pursue and what content or services to provide from the wide range of options available. So where do we start?
Well, we start by thinking like the consumer. Do they want to see untargeted marketing campaigns in their social space? I would suggest that consumers want to ‘pull’ information and engage with brands on their own prerogative. I regard using social media as simply another element of the marketing mix as the new form of spam. No one likes spam, why would we want to see spam in our daily use of social media? Ask yourself if the content you are providing would add value to your day, if the answer is no, then it’s not going to add value to a consumer or potential consumer. Do not add content for content sake, because it is just simply that. At BlogWorld there was a real buzz around awesome content, not content because we need to get something out there. It’s corny but think awesome!
So we need awesome content in the places that will reach the consumer. I think that is why there is so much emphasis on branding in the ‘BIG 4’, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. The volume of traffic to the ‘BIG 4′ is enough of a massive pull to branding and engaging in these spaces. However it is commonly known that individuals’ personal videos and not brand videos on YouTube are the most popular. Going back to traditional information search we know that people buy from people, it is no different in a virtual world, and the YouTube video scenario emphasises this point.
Remember people buy from people, it is this point that I feel is missing from the current social media landscapes and models. In academia, consumer generated content, commonly referred to as user generated content (UGC) has been a growing area of research. Now given the changes in use of social media, namely the increased use by brands in producing their own branded content, UGC is becoming a redundant term. We need to be able to distinguish between the brand and consumer generated content and their respective relative influence on consumer behaviour. I am working on this.
As part of my research I developed a landscape (CLICK HERE), marking in my eyes the components of social media. The landscape is not a pretty as the one posed by Brian Solis and Jess3 (Figure 1, above) but a mind map of those theories and concepts from academic literature and observations I have made. The key point I wish to make is not to neglect what the consumers are saying, this is in fact the most powerful source of information. Does your current social media strategy include a measure for consumer generated content or are you solely concentrating on your own messages? If it’s the latter you are missing out on a massive opportunity to know what your consumers really think about you and your products and/or services.
My landscape is a ‘living’ work, if you have opinions on dimensions to add or remove get in touch (Twitter @jillney). It would be great to know how you view my mind map compared to other views of social media that you have seen. Remember we are not looking at social media as a whole but as a means of retrieving product related information, interacting with brands to reach information needs, and outlining brand responsibility to this.
Notice I do not use the term, social media marketing, I feel that social media extends far beyond the traditional marketing sense and to be effective must be regarded as a culture.
* Embed social media into the fabric of your brand,
* Provide excellent customer service
* Set yourself apart as an expert in your area through use, engagement and listening with social media.
* Reach beyond getting your corporate message out there and think about what the customer wants and values, what are their information needs?
* Build a relationship through this need by providing valuable customer service, content and services.
Think awesome and remember the customer; you don’t want to be at the party alone!