While social media is one of the most sought after avenues for marketing, it has a number of pitfalls we need to be aware of to utilize it fully.
Social media rewards customer engagement and not product promotion. Companies need to show as if they are facilitating conversation rather than really guiding it. Shouting from the rooftops that your product is good may have worked before but today’s strategy is to let the users discover that for themselves. For example, Apple prides itself on making users take the decision of buying phones instead of egging them on to their products.
Second, it is almost impossible to predict where a campaign might lead. For example, McDonald’s paid Twitter to trend the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012 only for customers to vent about the frustrating problems they had faced at the store. Within hours they had asked Twitter to take down the handle. Another example is the Unilever’s advertisements. Since they owned both the brands “Axe” – that objectified women and “Dove” – that asked women to be comfortable with how they look, all it took was this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwDEF-w4rJk) to show them in a bad light.
Third, most companies are hung up on being “Liked”, “Shared”, “Trended” etc. While it is great for companies to get likes on their posts and many companies in fact go to the extent of actually buying “likes” from Facebook, the utility of this is minimal. Facebook, in a recent regulatory filing actually said that 11.2% of its total user base is bogus. Many industry analysts believe that Facebook tacitly allows these “click farms” to continue so as to improve its advertising experience. Research has shown that “shares” are more relevant to people than “likes” as it displays a greater level of user engagement. However, the advertiser needs to ask himself whether this engagement really translates to any revenue.
Fourth, one of the mistakes companies make is not continuing engagement. For example, in most sites, people are allowed a free rein in posting comments about a post or blog the company has published. What companies need to do is guide the conversation to their benefit. During the 2014 Indian General Elections, the BJP showed particular adroitness in this regard. They employed people who would go to various news websites, blogs etc., and tilt the conversation in their favour. This would limit the bad press (if any) and further glorify the good. However, this needs to be done with a great deal of panache as overtly positive comments would arouse suspicion.
Fifth, and possibly most important is to use data analytics. All users are not equal. One person has 10 followers in Twitter and another has 10 million. Companies must use analytics to determine who is who. For example, in a book review site, if a person with a high reputation says that a book is murderously boring, the people who would buy it would reduce manifold. It is the companies’ duty to give him more books to review or maybe even pay him for better reviews. Perhaps, the company can also retweet his reviews if they are positive.