Posted on February 20th, 2012
In the age of social media, anyone and everyone can be a part of “the media”. Social media has changed how audiences interact with an organization and, for better or worse, their expectations of that organization. Paine begins chapter five with a call for a shift in how we define three important concepts: timeliness, the role of marketing and communications, and program success. Customers now expect almost immediate response to both their own complaints and to larger crises; companies like Domino’s have been criticized for taking more than 48 hours to respond to a viral crisis. In terms of timeliness, Paine advises that brand monitoring must be at least a “daily process, if not hourly (p. 71).”
When it comes to the role of marketing, PR, and advertising, it is important for professionals to recognize that social media is not “just a new channel in which to advertise (p. 73).” Social media is not really a marketing “tool” in the traditional sense because it is not something a company can simply “use”; to be more accurate, social media is something a company must “do”. The value of advertising is declining because it is much more important to reach the smaller, “right” group of consumers and engage them in an authentic way.
This relates to Paine’s redefinition of success because instead of just measuring impressions, organizations need to look to the strength of their relationships with consumers as a measure of their success. In many other ways, PR practitioners must look beyond traditional methods and key performance indicators when dealing with social media. Attempting to control the conversation in social media will create negative backlash and trying to reach the public with a “corporate message” is both difficult and irrelevant. Lastly, in social media, it’s worse to not be talked about at all than to be talked about in negative terms. Responding to and quickly diffusing “negative press” is much easier online and it also gives an organization opportunity for improvement.
Audiences must be moved through various phases of engagement, which are: lurking, casual, active, committed, and loyalist. Paine notes that although most relationships end in the casual engagement phase, companies only need worry about “the ones who care about what [they] have to sell (p. 82).” Of course, it’s important for a company to continue to make the effort to engage potential customers. Social media can either build a wall between a company and its customers or help tear it down.
Each of the phases of engagement reflects elements of Grunig’s relationship survey – especially levels of trust, satisfaction, commitment, and whether the relationship is exchange or communal in nature.
Whether an organization’s goals relate to sales, relationships, or conversation, the correct tools for measurement must be used and (more importantly) results must be analyzed to draw insight and “actionable conclusions (p. 95).” Engaging with audiences is useless if an organization doesn’t use the information to make improvements. “And,” Paine suggests, “If you can’t identify a clear tie between your organization’s goals and what you are doing in social media, then don’t waste your time trying to measure it (p. 85).”
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