Social Media is a Brand Killer

With only 6% of companies ready to engage with customers on a regular basis and 82% of consumers actively wanting to engage with brands, the recent Alterian survey revealed a huge disconnect between businesses and consumers.

Social media reports may seem to be a dime a dozen at times and while there are lies, damn lies and statistics, this report casts a frightening light on marketing departments all over the UK and US.  No matter how nicely you try and spin the numbers, the Alterian report “Brands At Risk” is a damning indictment of the inability of brands to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the current marketplace.

The internet is essential to business.  Whether looking at the over 10 billion searches performed in March 2010 in the US alone, or the fact that 81% of the people surveyed for this study saw the internet as the ‘first port of call’ to compare products or services, the internet is an essential part of marketing.  Social media, with its requirement for engagement and response in an often public forum to sometimes embarrassing mistakes, can seem like an unnecessary time overhead and yet the Alterian study reveals it is as important a marketing channel as any other.

Only a tiny 5% of people surveyed trusted the advertising from an organisation, and yet 75% said it would have a positive impact on their experience as a customer if companies took the time to find out more about their needs.  While the time overhead involved in social media is greater than the time involved in traditional media, for the cost of an average TV campaign a much more effective and longer lasting social media campaign with a higher impact could be launched if this report is to be believed.

Social media is a relative newcomer on to a marketer’s radar but email marketing, a much more mature marketing channel should have a higher utilisation rate for customer management.  While 75.3% of companies taking part in a different survey said they received customer feedback by e-mail, only 23.1% said they tracked and measured the volume and nature of these messages.  These companies don’t know if they have a problem, let alone how bad the problem is.

New Media Age published survey results in January 2010 indicating that just 14% of marketers believe social media has a significant impact on their brand and 60% do not currently have a social media strategy for their business.  That is a serious disconnect between what marketers believe and that customers believe.  If the customer is always right then in this spells a disaster for many brands with a marketing department completely out of touch with the modern marketing age.

The Alterian and related reports makes for pretty depressing reading both as a marketer and as a consumer.  There is a serious disconnect between what marketing departments believe to be important and what consumers want.  This disconnect is serious enough that it is putting a number of large, well established brands at risk as smaller, more agile brands respond to this type of sentiment and move rapidly into social media for sales, marketing and customer service support.

Marketing departments need to take a look at this report and decide if they can afford to continue to ignore social media and the internet as a significant marketing channel.  While reach may be measured differently, the internet is vital for all brands, regardless of size or marketing spend.

Scared? Need to find help?  I have ONE FREE TICKET to the Monitoring Social Media conference to give away to the tenth person to tweet “I’m scared and *need* that free ticket to Monitoring Social Media from @JudithLewis STAT!” on Tuesday November 9th after 11:30am GMT (judge’s decision final. No cash alternative. It’s a free ticket, nothing more).  Missed getting a freebie? Get a 10% discount with code JL10

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11 Responses to “Social Media is a Brand Killer”

  1. Ciaran says:

    Interesting post, but I’ll have to pull you up on the title:

    “This disconnect is serious enough that it is putting a number of large, well established brands at risk as smaller, more agile brands respond to this type of sentiment and move rapidly into social media for sales, marketing and customer service support.”

    Care to name a few?

    Also, not to be a pain but:

    “While the time overhead involved in social media is greater than the time involved in traditional media, for the cost of an average TV campaign a much more effective and longer lasting social media campaign with a higher impact could be launched if this report is to be believed.”

    Again, care to name some? I’d suggest that this http://adage.com/columns/article?article_id=146815 & this http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/16/aleksander-orlov-price-comparison-ads suggest that’s not the case – in reality they work in conjunction, not instead of each other.

  2. SERPD says:

    Social Media is a Brand Killer | SEO Chicks…

    So, despite everything you’ve read over the past two years, it looks like Social Media could be BAD for brands? Is that really the case?…

  3. Those are some eye opening statistics. Thank you for summarizing. Social media is a terrific marketing tool for companies and brands that have a emotional relationship with their customers. However, it is not appropriate for all commercial enterprises. I have no real interest in “friending” or getting tweets from my insurance company, although I certainly read the e-mails they deliver to me.

  4. Agreed – social media is becoming more and more vital for brand reputation managment.

  5. 40deuce says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that social media is a brand killer.
    I agree, as a consumer and a social media communication professional that the consumer market is definitely moving towards wanting to be more “social” with companies and brands, but would a company not being in social media stop me from buying their products? Probably not.
    Social media is one of the first places I turn to when faced with a product decision, but in truth, I’d rather hear what my peers think of a brand more than hearing from that actual brand.
    Yes, social media has turned me on to some new brands, but it’s never turned me away from a brand whether they are participating or not.
    That’s just me though.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  6. I don’t think that social media is necessarily a brand killer, I do believe it is a vital piece in the marketing puzzle for many brands, and if done right, can really boost a brand. The majority of people now turn to social media for brand advice, and knowledge, so why not take advantage. As long as the message being put out there is a consistent one company wide, I don’t think Social Media will negatively affect one’s brand.

  7. Vee Sweeney says:

    I think what happens is that companies either do not use social media in the right way or they still fail to engage the customer. Having a presence is social media is great, but if customer complaints are not addressed or consumer needs are not taken into account, the consumer feels like it is just another instance of the company not listening to them. As for engaging the customer, I see many company social media sites where they frankly state information or post links. This is not an effective way to engage the customer. As for social media hurting and not helping a business, this can happen when the company puts all of their efforts to social media and doesn’t concentrate their efforts on any other area of marketing or customer service.

  8. Juan says:

    I agree, Social media is becoming more and more vital for brand reputation

  9. “Marketing departments need to take a look at this report and decide if they can afford to continue to ignore social media and the internet as a significant marketing channel.”

    No kidding.

    Great article Judith.

  10. I believe Erik Qualman said this, “The ROI of Social Media is Your Business Will Still Exist in 5 years” Awesome!

    I’m a huge believer in Social Media. However, sometimes Brands just ruin it for themselves with their poor customer service, tech support, or product – even with a huge Social Media strategy! I recently tweeted a comment to @dellcares about their twitter name being a joke.

    Thanks Judith for a great blog :)

  11. These survey results are astonishing,how there can be such a controversy in marketer and costumer perceptions.Do marketers not study or provided with the study of costumer trends and analysis of their buying behavior?

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