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Companies still all at sea in social media says Firefly Millward Brown

A new survey by Firefly Millward Brown shows that clients are still struggling to market their brands successfully in social media despite pouring an increasing amount of money into it.

The survey, which FMB claims is the first global study, was carried out in nine countries and is to be presented at the ESOMAR Qualitative 2010 conference in the ever-popular Barcelona.

Predictably, although interestingly, it notes the power and potency of Facebook, saying that consumers in China feel frustrated because they can’t get on it (which I didn’t know) and also says that India is seeing a move away from Google’s Orkut to Facebook, which is deemed to be more sophisticated and ‘western.’

This is a kick below the belt for Google. Orkut is one of its few failures, only redeemed (we thought) by its success in India.

One of its recommendations is that marketers should let consumers ‘find’ their brands rather than the brands finding them. This is deemed to be like shouting at social media users.

But that’s what marketers do isn’t it?

Here’s the full list:

1. Don’t recreate your homepage in social media — consumers want to see something new, fresh or different from brands – not a rehash of the same information they can get on the brand’s official Web site.
2. Listen first, then talk: create a dialogue — by far one of the biggest issues consumers have – or anticipate – with brands is that they will simply talk at them instead of talking with them. They want a conversation where brands listen to what they have to say.
3. Build trust by being open and honest — transparency is key for brands in social media and is the most critical factor in building trust. However, consumers perceive that brands would rather hide behind policies and procedures than admit to their failings or shortcomings.
4. Give your brand a face — brands often suffer in social media because they don’t have anyone that answers to the consumer, a face for the brand. This prevents many consumers from actively engaging with companies in social media.
5. Offer something of value — consumers are more likely to respond to brands that offer them something real and tangible, preferably without wanting something in return. While discounts and coupons are in vogue for brands in social media, they can create distrust. Worthwhile and exclusive content or deals or inside information on new products and services are valued by consumers.
6. Be relevant — consumers want to see content that relates to their life, their interest, their desires and their needs. Interestingly, several respondents commented on the lack of relevance for brands of ‘functional’ products like detergent, fabric softener and household cleaning products within the social media universe. In social media consumers are more critical about content that isn’t deemed relevant and feel that it’s invading their space.
7. Talk like a friend not a corporate entity — consumers want brands to communicate in simple, casual language that is conversational. They do not want technical or sales speak.
8. Give consumers some control — to operate effectively, brands must relinquish some of the control they have held for many years and be comfortable with the fact that they cannot solely dictate the message anymore. Brands that embrace consumer input and promote it will be more effective in managing the conversation.
9. Let consumers find you/come to you — another stark departure from traditional media campaigns, consumers do not want to feel that brands are ‘shouting’ messages at them. The perception is clearly that brands will use ‘intrusive’ and ‘interruptive’ advertising in social media.
10. Let consumers talk for you — brands achieve more kudos when consumers take the initiative and advocate them. The recent Toyota campaign, where real people talked about their stories on Facebook and were then selected to feature in a television ad, is a great example where the brand is not trying to overtly sell but is building relationships by encouraging customers to participate in conversations.

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