Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shooting From The Hip With Social Media

Big news everywhere we turn this week and last from the world of social media.  Early last week Nielsen reported that 22 percent of all time spent on the Internet is social.  According to a study by the big research company, web users spend one in every four and a half minutes they are online on social networks and blogs.

Some equally compelling data from another research firm, as reported in eMarketer, shows that 50% of Facebook users click on Facebook ads to "like" a brand and 33% of Twitter users share opinions about companies or products.

It seems as social media permeates our lives and  new levels of connectivity are added through mobile devices, entirely new consumer behaviors are developing.

Up until recently it was rare for me to see friends on Facebook mention specific products other than those associated with pop culture such as TV Shows, Movies, Music and Books.   But in the last couple of weeks I have seen friends speak glowingly of experiences with consumer brands that exceeded their expectations in one way or another like Netflix, ZipCar, GroupOn and Trader Joes.

Companies are being forced to react to all this on multiple levels.  Never has the pressure been greater for a business to absolutely delight their customers and tap into an ever growing pool of potential evangelists who will share their experiences on one of their preferred social networks. (Disappointing and frustrating them carries too much downside - witness the AT&T/iPhone debacle last week.)

So at the highest level, companies need to weave social media considerations into their entire operating mentality. And, on a more granular level, they need to be dedicating more and more resources and strategic thinking to intimately managing specific social media platforms and channels.

For most companies this is not proving easy.  According to another piece of research released this week,  as reported in Media Post, more than half of companies say they are using social media with absolutely no strategy.

"... most companies appear to be shooting from the hip, with no cohesive game plan or measurement systems in place. Even among those with a plan, few have written policies and communications protocols in place, leaving the organization exposed to problems arising out of employees communicating in ways that inadvertently hurt -- rather than help -- their company brands."

Shocking, but not surprising in such fast-fracturing media landscape.  Seems companies are barely able to keep up with their traditional and online media executions, and when they do develop a clever social media idea, it comes out of nowhere and doesn't seem to be connected to a broader marketing strategy.

Is Virgin America's offer this week to offer free flights to Twitter influencers "shooting from the hip" or smart marketing?