As you read this, millions of people are exchanging news, views, ideas, pictures, videos and a whole host of other stuff using online social networks. Every day, billions of bits of information are swapped between people online – the world of social media is truly immense. So it is no wonder that businesses want a slice of the action. Indeed, there is plenty of material you can read on harnessing the power of social networks in your business. But is it actually worthwhile?
New research shows that social networks are truly social – people swap pictures, videos and blog posts about each other. Only rarely, it seems, do they talk about brands. Indeed, almost 60% of people on Facebook have NEVER mentioned a brand, according to one study. Similarly, on Twitter, six out of every ten Tweeters have never mentioned brand either. So, in spite of the desire for businesses to get people talking about the products and services they sell, it just is not happening very much.
Many businesses, of course, worry that social networks allow people to talk negatively about their brands. Indeed, companies have social media policies in place to prevent their staff talking about the office mishaps, for fear that anything negative “getting out” will damage the firm. Yet research confirms that when people do discuss brands in online social networks only 0.5% of their updates are negative mentions of brands. In other words, the negatives are there – but almost invisible.
In fact, what companies should focus on is the fact that around a quarter of people on Facebook have mentioned brands in a completely positive light. That means that it is 50 times MORE LIKELY that someone will say good things about your business than writes something nasty.
What the studies really confirm is that social media is about people chatting away, just as they do in bars, at dinner parties or when they socialize around the barbecue…! They talk about each other, their families, their holidays and the latest movie they have seen. They chat about last night’s TV and they discuss their aches and pains. Then – and only when it is relevant – do they talk about any particular brand they like. And usually it is to tell one of their mates how good a particular item is they have just bought.
Online social media is no different. People do chat about this, that and then occasionally your brand. So, rather than trying to “dominate” the social media space with your business, instead treat it like a normal social space where people will occasionally mention your company, at the appropriate point in the conversation.
If you look at the raw data of all the research, with brands only occasionally being mentioned, it might seem sensible to put your marketing resources elsewhere. But if you want to be mentioned socially, you need to be in that social space. You just have to accept that your company’s brands are not going to be the focus of conversations. But if you aren’t engaging in social media, then there is little chance of your brand getting a look in.
And remember this – when people do talk about your company it is almost always going to be positive. If you are not using social media, you are missing out on a massive supply of positive word-of-mouth.
- Is the social media world destroying our online business? (grahamjones.co.uk)
- Be social: Do you really need a social media manager? (marketing.yell.com)
- Some Key Social Media Trends To Look For In 2012 (techcrunch.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+