Social Media is not a new medium, it's been around forever, since we learned how to engrave shapes on the walls of our first homes, caves, and communicate with each other either through sounds or signs. As evident, listening is the fundamental skill-set and without it, we experience flaw in our communications - but of course there are some people and organisations would fix everything to their favour through PR, not bad, is it?
Social Media has come to change some aspects of traditional PR and to prove unethical leadership theories, such as Emotional Intelligence has no place in the modern days of 21st century by encouraging THE. Brands need to bear in mind 2 factors for the best Social Media practice:
However, knowing how to listen is the prerequisite module. Listening and engagement in Social Media need a new approach free of spinning and applying traditional communication techniques; otherwise it won't work and cost businesses fortune. It is however wrongly seen as a marketing channel to market unwanted messages at people; the result is that many people see Social Media communications as spam.
There are many enthusiasts out there calling themselves "Social Media Guru" or "Social Media Expert" but, to be honest there is no such thing. If you see someone calls her/himself a Social Media Guru or Social Media Expert, don't slap them in the face; just smile like you heard a nice joke! The fact about Social Media is that we all have very similar level of knowledge and expertise, but what set us apart is our action and how we put our knowledge to practice.
If one is not a good listener in their real life, it is highly unlikely that they are good Social Media listeners. The proof? Social Media is all about others and very little about "what's in it for me" kind of mentality, regardless of one's business environment, B2B or B2C.
Many start-ups as well as major analytic companies spent months on developing listening and monitoring tools for brands' Social Media consumption; and business spend millions on signing contracts with vendors just because they feel they should have a solution in place. They also spend a lot of time and money on researching about what tool/s to choose and meeting with vendors short-listed; with very little given to why, how and by whom to use the tools. All tools have their own limitations of course, but how brands use them is important to overcome some of the limitations; purely through unbiased human input; this is the bit many brands struggle to acknowledge - although they're well aware of when in their meeting rooms.
There's no tool in the world that tells brands how to listen, how to respond and how to engage to establish trust and boost loyalty; hence genuine listening and objective analysis of Social Media engagement and ROI is crucial. This is something within the culture of an organisation, the culture which usually derives from the management attitude and personality.
Upon realising confidence in management that they are ready for genuine listening, the next step is to find out where in Social Media your target audience live; such level of insight is invaluable to your business when it comes to Brand Social Positioning (BSP) and audience engagement. As part of this exercise you can easily conclude whether Social Media is the right fit for your business purpose.
Prime examples of wrongly adopted Social Media are Cupid and Match.com, both are dating companies. They created a Facebook brand page on which people exchanging information about each other, isn't it cannibalising their own brand? Or it might have been their business exist strategy? - in which case Social Media works well in their favour!
On the other hand, Budweiser meant to launch an integrated outdoor advertising campaign; they cited "over 18s only" next to the Facebook logo (which presumably is their brand Facebook page). In a glance, their effort can be seen as responsible, but it is rather irresponsible in other ways. For instance, we all know there are many under 18s on Facebook pretending to be over 18; they can easily take part in any competitions or promotions by the brand (with no real control on who is really over 18!). Or does Budweiser hire a team to manually check age of every single individual liked their Facebook page?
Unfortunately Budweiser haven't considered ethics in their latest outdoor advertising campaign in the UK, but they can argue that they did their part which would possibly let them get away with the law, but not social responsibility and ethics.
Obviously change is inevitable in some organisations to really master BSP.