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Social Media

In the old days, people relied mostly on products and services. Advertising didn’t exist back then, it was just as simple as putting a plank with your name and your occupation on your door or outside your gate. Nobody would see the plank unless they passed by your house or store. The business rule was very simple, if you have good products or services, then your happy customers will tell their friends, and if they were satisfied, then they will tell their friends and so on and so forth. Until now, we still found Word Of Mouth (WOM) marketing to be the most powerful tool every marketer should utilize. However, maintaining positive WOM is extremely difficult, since the expectation is always getting higher and higher so there has to be continuous improvement on the products’ or services’ side.

Then radio was invented and soon after, the television. Advertising as one dominant type of marketing communication became too strong. Small companies suddenly had national brands because they started selling their products in a massive way all over the country or even the world. Brand image suddenly become THE MOST important thing in marketing. Companies would do anything to defend their brands, they lied, cheated, even said negative thing about their competitors. As I have said before, they’d do anything to make their brands look good.

Then there’s the era of consumer power, where suddenly the market became so saturated with advertising, that customers became confused and started to come to their senses. They just want products that work and fit within their budget.  Marketers started panicking and scream that Advertising is Dead, Sales is Dead, etc. Of course they’re dead, advertising and sales are mostly one way communication, it’s how companies are pushing their products to the customers. Customers eventually have to make their choice based on their limited budget. The competitions then reached its peak and escalated into a price war. Who wins the war? Customers for sure, a lot of big bulk retailers that sells high volume at small margins and a few niche players.

Within the last 3 years, the social media has stolen the spotlight. Companies are flocking to use the new media to reach millions of (potential) customers. Social media specialists suddenly are in high demand. Despite all the hype, these companies keep forgetting that social media is not another type of advertising they thought they knew and will never be one.  Most companies use social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and blogs as a form of one-way communication. Although they have done a great job of making it looks interactive, they hardly read their customers’ comment, and deleted the negative comments as if there is nothing worth improving. They are creating a narcissistic “faux-brand-image” where they always look perfect and everybody’s always so happy.  Those companies do not realize that those unsatisfied customers will never go away, because they have been using their personal blogs or any other media (facebook, twitter, etc) to express their disappointment and frustration.

As for me, I am a traditional marketer who believes that everything is about innovation and continuous improvement of products and services. Advertising, updates, tweets, blogs and everything else is secondary. The best example that I can use probably is to compare Apple and RIM. Apple always come up with disruptive technologies that upset the competition, while RIM (who used to be very innovative) prefers to use its current proprietary Blackberry Messaging technology. iPad is definitely not the first tablet computer in the world, but in people’s mind, iPad is ultimate tablet computer because of its intuitive touch technology. On the other hand, despite how much money RIM had invested in product development, PlayBook will never be regarded as an innovative product, since people will always see it as just another iPad clone.

It really doesn’t matter how much budget  your company has allocated to hire the best social media specialists to exploit the potential of social media and other internet-based technology, I still believe in the power of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) because in the end, everything will come down to this: IF YOUR CUSTOMERS WON’T RECOMMEND YOU TO THEIR FRIENDS, THAT MEANS YOUR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES STINK! (PW)

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There are a lot of articles both offline and online about corporate blogging these last 3 years. Yes, social media has been a very hot issue lately. Pingdom has all the crazy statistics that there are 350 million users on Facebook,126 million blogs and almost 4 billion pictures are being hosted on flickr. Companies have to be aware that the true core of social media is still individual connecting to other individuals. Facebook does not regulate how their users interact, or what to say and not to say. In the social media law, the users generate the content, and they too, control the content.

Looking at the graph below, it seems that companies have to be extra careful on how to lure their online customer so they can increase their sales. So it is clear that for companies this rule apply: DAMNED IF YOU DO, AND DAMNED IF YOU DON’T. The main reason for this is that they know that everyone is connected, but the fact shows that only 16% believes in corporate blogs (if you’re doing a great job, that is). If you don’t do a good job on your corporate blog, then you will get less than that. So the question remains, is it worthwhile for companies to blog? HELL YES! For reasons like SEO which is a major one. But here are some tips that might help companies to get followers.

Graphics created by Forrester Research Inc, taken from http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2008/12/12/corporate-blogging-youre-doing-it-wrong/

First of all, companies have to understand how the whole system works. In the Blog-o-sphere, Bloggers throw their ideas through the internet, with the hopes that other bloggers or readers will comment on it. So blogging is not supposed to be a one-way street but interactive. The comments are unfiltered, which means that people can agree or totally disagree with the blogger. If your company is serious about blogging then you will have to accept that there are people who hate your products, and if you are a true marketer, your challenge is to convert them by responding to each their comments through your blog. Here are some tips that might help your corporate blog fly:

Personal

It is best to relate the blog to a person that represents the company. Ideally, the owner should blog about the company, because s(he) is the soul of the company and what the company’s all about. Linking your company’s website is allowed for SEO reason, as long as you don’t do it too much.  Having an employee blog in favor of the company just doesn’t make sense, because he/she might move to another company. Basically when you blog, your personal brand becomes one with your company’s brand. Or quoting from Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: “Your personal brand is screaming so loudly I can hardly hear a word you are saying.”

Find Your Niche

Your blog should be about something specific. If your company makes 100 unrelated products, then it might be necessary to create 100 blogs. Don’t put too much unrelated information in one blog, otherwise you will attract many people with different interests, and in the end it will not generate effective interaction.

Honest

Honesty is the main ingredient of successful blogs. When you are not being honest, people can feel it, and they will start moving away from your blog. Explain who you are so people can relate to your way of thinking. Your posts and comments should be non-discriminatory, even to the point of admitting that your products are not perfect. One thing for sure, you will gain loyal followers just because of the fact that you are still willing to listen to them. Companies like Apple and Microsoft are notorious when it comes to limiting what their employees can say in their blogs and the public are very aware of it. These limitations affect the sincerity and believability of the blogs.

Unconditional

DO NOT (I repeat: DO NOT) sell your products through your blog or expect a direct reward in the form of revenue, but you can use if to share information about new releases, upcoming events and new technology and trends. Leash yourself. When you do too much selling, people will start to move away from it.

Fresh

Your blog should always be fresh. Starting a blog is easy, but maintaining one is hard, especially when you have to post fresh contents regularly, not to mention responding to gazillion comments despites your busy offline routines.

So You’re Saying that My Company should not Blog?

Ideally, blogs should be personal. However, if your company does decide to create a corporate blog because it does support its SEO program big time, please make sure that your management are ready to accept what your customers will say about your company. Be careful when you are implementing some kind of filter on comments, because readers can smell if from miles away, and when they do, they will move away from it. There are a couple of functions that could use blog to get customer’s insights, and those are product/service development and customer service (aka customer complaints). Like my previous blogs, these inputs are very valuable and will give a lot of information on where the company should start when it comes to improvements.

Other sources that you can read:

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