03.The revolution in social media
Many companies and retailers are starting to take the business of being “social” seriously. Those currently using social media to communicate with customers are diverse, ranging from technology and telecommunication companies to department stores, airlines and even small local businesses. And unlike more traditional communications such as advertising, which allow the company to control the message, social media allows the customer to talk back.
Business of being social
This two-way communication is a radical shift in how some companies deal with customers, and according to Cameron Reilly, social media strategist and head of digital strategy at a Brisbane-based advertising agency, “many are finding it difficult to step away from their traditional marketing and public relations strategies”.
Companies are now monitoring public sites such as Twitter for mentions of their brand, as well as scanning the internet for comments on blogs and public groups on Facebook. Many have customer service teams that scan for disgruntled customer comments and then contact them directly, while some are searching out their competitors’ unhappy customers to convert them.
Social media also shapes how companies do business. Some argue it’s the world’s biggest focus group, and the experts CHOICE spoke to all agree that sites such as Twitter give companies direct access to consumers’ opinions – good or bad – so they can use this live feedback to improve or change the way they do business.
Many large Australian companies have been slow to embrace social media, but telecommunications giant Telstra is one of the most active. Mike Hickinbotham, Social Media Senior Advisor for Telstra, says the organisation has been “dipping a toe” in the water of social media for the past three years. He concedes Telstra doesn’t always have the best image with consumers, and believes social media is a key element in changing public perceptions of the company.
“It was a big shift,” Hickinbotham told CHOICE.
“We first started out with a blog called ‘Now we’re talking’, where we began to acknowledge that it’s OK for people to express how they think and feel. We’ve since launched our second blog called Telstra Exchange. It’s designed to engage in online conversations that have a shared interest in technology, innovation and online media. With our two customer support accounts on Twitter, it allows us to have a real conversation with our customers as well as being able to help them.”