Last week when I participated in a panel discussion in Chicago at the KMG Marketing Symposium, the subject of big companies participating in social media came up. One of my fellow panel members brought up a story about his client Frito-Lay freaking out when a person they hired to manage a activate social media mentioned Coke on Twitter.
No big deal right?
No, it’s apparently a HUGE deal because Frito-Lay is owned by Pepsi.
Here’s the deal with social media: it works best for brands when it’s a free-flowing conversation built on trust. It’s inevitable for these conversations to occasionally mention your competition. Or your holding company’s competition. Or the competition of your CEO’s spouse’s company. It’s gonna happen, and it’s totally ok, people. One mention or acknowledgement of the competition is not going to affect sales. In fact, acknowleging the competition will grow trust between you and your consumers.
It you don’t believe me, go back to believing in the mass media model that says that impressions = sales. We don’t want you in the Social Media neighborhood.
Today I was reading Peter Bregman’s piece on Harvard Business Publishing called Why Small Businesses With Win in This Economy.
The crux of the article is that people no longer trust big companies. Duh. But the new insight is that people no longer trust the big companies they work for, which is leading to a trickle-down effect of mistrust and corporate suspicion.
As I read this piece, I realized that the word “small” could be interchanged with “authentic”. Authentic companies will win in this economy because:
- People want to have REAL conversations with REAL people.
- Employees who are authentically excited about their job/employer/company sell their brand or service without even knowing it.
- An authentic brand creates sustainable word-of-mouth recommendations
Small companies have an advantage in that it’s just easier to be authentic. But even the biggest of companies can authentic – they just need to think and act small.
I ran across an interesting “tweet” a couple weeks ago. (For those of you not in to the whole Twitter thing, a “tweet” is a message posted on the micro-blogging website called Twitter.)
The tweet directed us to a website called howtousetwitterformarketingandpr.com. Being the curious marketer I am, I checked it out and found out that the website simply says “Don’t.”
I beg to differ.
There certainly is a way for companies and brands to use Twitter. Southwest (@southwestair) and JetBlue (@jetblue) Airlines have successfully used Twitter to announce new routes, flight delays and have conversations with their consumers. Comcast (@comcastcares) has used Twitter to help their customers troubleshoot technical issues and have a meaningful conversation in the process. Whole Foods (@wholefoods) is using Twitter to answer product questions and have conversations with their customers.
See the trend here? The brands that are effectively using Twitter are the ones that are using it to have meaningful conversations. The ones that are using it to simply make announcements are Sturgeon fishing in Lake Michigan. It’s just not going to work. Having meaningful conversations with your customers or consumers doesn’t just apply to Twitter. Creating opportunities to have conversations should be the common thread in every marketing tactic.
Maybe that website’s URL should have been: http://www.howtoactivatemarketingprogramsthatdontallowconversationswithconsumers.com. THEN, the answer could be “Don’t” and I’d totally agree with it.