Social networking and the media

Avenues like Twitter and Facebook offer a lot more than just social networking.
 
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03.The revolution in social media

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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.”

 

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Smartphones to take over iphone keyboard

Lukas Picton, a social media strategist for global public relations company Text 100, says he has seen a massive uptake in the use of social media by both the public and business this year. “It’s exploded – and it’s set to get bigger in Australia, particularly as more people start using smart phones. I was in New York this time last year and the majority of people you’d see in the streets and on the subway had an iPhone or a Blackberry – even school kids. The adoption of smartphone and mobile internet technology is what continues to drive the uptake and usage of social media, and it’s definitely played a significant role in the increase here in Australia.”
Reilly, who has worked with many Australian companies to develop social media strategies, says while Australia has been much slower than the US and UK to embrace social media, interest has picked up dramatically in the past eight months – and companies that don’t get involved will be left behind. “Their employees are probably already on Twitter; more than eight million adult Australians are on Facebook; people are blogging, podcasting – it’s already happening.”

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