SOCIAL MEDIA: Pros & Cons

The public relations industry loves new, catchy trends and social media is probably the biggest one around right now. But before jumping in where fools fear to tread, it’s best to consider some of the pros and cons of joining the online revolution. Engaging with social media has been compared with dancing with a bear. The bear decides when you stop dancing, not you! Just like traditional media strategies, social media campaigns also require careful planning and execution. Here are some of the pros and cons of social media.

Cons:
It takes time. Content needs to be generated, and your online audience expects swift responses and a smooth transactional process from your business. A good test of your readiness for social media is how long it takes you currently to respond to an email query to your website. If it takes longer than a day, you’re not ready yet.

Social media doesn’t replace marketing strategy. Social media tools aren’t built to create productive customers on their own. Ultimately, it comes down to your business and marketing strategy, to help convert your social media community into business customers. Don’t confuse the difference between your online community and your marketplace.

Employ the right talent. Social media requires engaging content and should not be left to the “guys in IT.” Make sure your PR/marketing people are fully utilised to generate new and exciting content relevant to your online audience.

Surrendering control isn’t easy. Social media involves opening up your business to the outside world, and the feedback isn’t always positive. Not everything should be dealt with online; for example an invoice query shouldn’t be discussed on Twitter. On the plus side, critics can be turned into your biggest promoters by engaging with them and addressing their concerns.

Return on investment is long term. Like a traditional PR campaign, the return on investment for engaging in social media is difficult to measure as the impact will be felt over the medium to long term. However, it is possible to measure social media feedback through such sites as SocialMention.com, Search.twitter.com or NutShellMail.com.

The Pros:

Social media gives your business a new voice. It’s hard to compete with social media when it comes to building a personality for your brand. Used properly, social media can enhance relationships and boost your reputation in the online and offline worlds. Remember though, it’s not all about you – social media involves sharing much more than simply promoting.

Reach new markets. For old-timers, social media can appear bewildering. But as we know, today’s youth will soon become tomorrow’s power generation. Social media can open up new audiences, as potentially the world is the audience for your blog, Facebook page or YouTube video.

Improved customer feedback. You may not like it, but social media gives you free feedback on your business. Use it to improve your products and services, thereby enhancing your reputation and growing market share.
Social media bypasses intermediaries. Send out a media release or organise an interview, and your message will be filtered by the publisher or journalist. Social media gives you a direct voice to your customers, with no intermediaries to block the message.

Social media gives you flexibility. If your business is suited to videos, use YouTube. If writing is your forte, get blogging with WordPress. If you’re in retail, check out what your customers are saying on Foursquare. And with the spread of smartphones, there’s plenty of potential for you to be spreading the word while waiting at the bus stop or at the supermarket checkout counter!

These are just some of the many benefits of social media. But rather than jumping in at the deep end, dip your toes in the water first by spending some time gaining familiarity as an individual user with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn. Learn how it works, and make sure your website, ecommerce and other internal processes are organised properly to allow for smooth transactions with your new, online customers. Who said dancing wasn’t meant to be easy?

About The Guest Writer | Anthony Fensom

Having worked for more than a decade in the financial and media industries in Australia and Asia, Anthony is an experienced practitioner in strategic media and investor relations and has consulted to a range of ASX-listed companies along with professional services and smaller businesses. As a former Tokyo-based journalist he has a keen interest in improving Australia-Japan relations, and in helping Australian businesses improve their engagement with Asia and the world.

For more information about Social Media, you can connect with The Marketing Manager at www.TheMarketingManager.com.au

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