You'll hear plenty of praise for social media from us marketing bods. After all, when you consider the amount of time people are spending on these sites it's difficult not to get excited. We think so anyway.
However, there's still plenty of scepticism in the business world. Facebook is often seen as a plague in the workplace: draining people's productivity and risking damage to the business' reputation.
The reticence of businesses to adopt Facebook, Twitter and their ilk was highlighted in a recent survey by PC security specialist McAfee. It doesn't go into too much detail, but the general conclusion was that the UK lags behind Brazil, Spain and India when it comes to adopting Web 2.0 tools.
If you're still sat on the fence when it comes to social media, here are some pros and cons to consider about implementing it in your marketing strategy:
Cons of social media marketing
- Time consuming - Social media is often described as an 'online conversation', so you'll need to be constantly feeding your pages and profiles with interesting comments and links to keep people interested. You also have comments to monitor and respond to on a daily basis. Being consistently interesting and relevant all the time can also be difficult to maintain
- Long time before ROI - Social media is a long haul strategy. It could be months, or even years, before you start seeing it translating into increased customer loyalty and sales
- Dilutes brand voice - If you have more than one person posting messages on social media sites then this can lead to a mish mash of phraseology and tone
- Risk of negative comments - If you use social media clumsily, there's a risk of a public backlash and damage to your brand's reputation (read more in When Social Media backfires)
- Loss of control - Anything you publish is open to comment and criticism. Providing an arena for people to post negative comments about your company is the stuff of nightmares for marketers (but aren't people going to talk about you anyway?)
Pros of social media marketing
- Relationship building - The one-to-one dialogue you can have in social media makes it a powerful platform for building a closer affinity with customers and brand loyalty
- It's where your customers are - Facebook isn't merely a domain filled with teenagers and 20 somethings. It now attracts all demographics and ages. In fact, Facebook's fastest growing segment is the over 55s
- Word of mouth/ viral marketing - Social media can spread your offers and messages amongst 1000s of people very quickly. And the best part is that it's your customers spreading them for you
- Give your brand personality - Posting messages everyday can develop people's perception of your brand's personality very quickly through your writing style and tone of voice
- Gain feedback - You can ask questions and run polls to gain valuable insight on how you can improve your products and services
- Learn more about customers - By listening and participating in their online conversations you can find out more about your customers' problems, likes and dislikes and preferences
- Low cost of entry - Creating profiles and pages on Facebook and Twitter is quick, easy and free to do
- Customer service - People don't rely on email and the phone to get their questions answered anymore. They're now posting messages in blogs and forums to get them resolved. Engaging with social media enables you to respond to the evolving nature of customer service, and improve loyalty as a result
- Crisis marketing - When something goes wrong, your customers want to know how you're going to put it right. Many aren't going to wait for a press release or newspaper article before they start forming a negative opinion about your lethargic response. Twitter can be used to get your apologies out fast, and enable you to answer concerned customers' questions
Ultimately, deciding whether to use social networks in your marketing mix comes down to whether it's right for your business. It's not a 'quick fix' that will suddenly give you a burst of sales, but it does offer enormous potential for relationship building in the long run.
Setting up profiles in Facebook and Twitter is free to do, so why not give it a whirl and see if it works for you?
BDA (Buckingham Design Associates) blog - real people giving real opinions, and a complete lack of agency waffle. Award winners BDA deliver an exciting blend of design and creative marketing for the Oxford, Milton Keynes, Northampton and London region.