Brand interaction: the challenges of social media

Over 3 billion people have created a vast social hub by sharing their thoughts, pictures, writing blogs and creating forums and communities online.

11 Feb 2015

by Marianne Sartori

Social media

People can end up spending more time online than in real life, which leads to some funny situations. It is the place to be, the place to meet. It’s also how consumers talk to brands and where the brand can talk to us. And that’s where it becomes challenging, but also very interesting.

At a time when everyone is over-connected, many brands don’t necessarily understand the role they can play on social media and the necessity to engage with it. The time when brands only had an information-only website is over. People now want a site that has everything they are looking for, allows them to express themselves and to have that feeling of being special. They may have a question or a comment, they may want to receive regular updates in a format that is more convenient for them and they may want to be informed about exclusive offers or get the news before everyone else. Social media is an ideal medium for this.

Innovative marketing

Many brands think you simply have to create a Facebook page or a Twitter account. But brands need to consider why they are doing this (raising awareness, creating an online community, encouraging people to buy?) and what are the best platforms to achieve their objectives. Marketeers need to be innovative in order to be noticed, to adapt to a new audience (mostly younger) with a bespoke tone of voice and to consider the fact that a social media campaign should be part of their communication strategy.

The time when a brand could simply post on Facebook and see their fan base grow is over. Facebook is making it more and more difficult to reach out to people, even when they like a page. Each user has an average of 338 friends on Facebook and likes an average of 89 pages. A brand’s post can easily be lost in the middle of the newsfeeds, especially since Facebook’s algorithm favours friends’ posts rather than those from brands.  In 2014, organic impressions on Facebook (as opposed to paid media) declined by 32%, encouraging brands to adopt a pay-to-play system of advertising.

Analytical power

If this has now prompted brands to have a media budget for social media, it has also given them enormous analytical power. Indeed, with all the tools that exist, a brand can target people by region, age, gender, language, interest, behaviour, and so on, and measure with precision how many people actually saw their post, clicked on it and engaged with it. Eventually, a brand can tell how many sales it generated. What PR campaign is capable of doing that?

“Brands can have access to so much data because everything that a person does online is traced.”

Brands can have access to so much data because everything that a person does online is traced, from searched keywords and visited websites and pages to information given on social platforms. The Internet has become an enormous database that any marketeer is now eager to use although, according to IBM, 90% of the world’s data has been generated only in the past two years, and less than 1% of that data has so far been analysed.

A goldmine of data

Brands such as Walmart and Amazon already understand that the challenge over the next few years is how to maximise all the pieces of information given by their consumers on any given digital platform and support (website, newsletter, social media), how to collect them, store them, analyse them and use them in the best possible way. The objective will be to understand what motivates the customer to visit a website and purchase a product. Theoretically, it’s a goldmine of data for brands… And as a result, we can expect some fascinating projects and offers over the next few years!

“One thing needs to be kept in mind, though: consumers have started to realise that free digital platforms are supporting themselves by using users’ data and that personalised offers have a cost.”

One thing needs to be kept in mind, though: consumers have started to realise that free digital platforms are supporting themselves by using users’ data and that personalised offers have a cost. Some platforms have started to see the number of their subscribers decrease as people don’t want to give private details to be used by marketeers.

On both the brands’ and the consumers’ sides, nothing seems to really be free online anymore…

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