Firefly Millward Brown [fireflymb.com] has conducted the first global qualitative research study into consumers general attitudes and behaviours towards brands in social media.
The Research [download summary report], which includes in-depth discussions with organizations as well as hundreds of consumers across 15 countries; providing companies and their brands with valuable insight into how to navigate social media more effectively.
Marketers struggling with their social media strategy may be having trouble because they haven’t yet grasped how to move from being a faceless corporation to a “friend.” Specifically, many marketers are struggling with translating their brand attributes into a personality that can engage consumers in a two-way dialogue.
Businesses “lack confidence” with social media
Most organisations recognise the potential and importance of social media but lack the organisational support and confidence to make the most of the medium.
This is one of the findings of a global qualitative study of companies carried out by Firefly Millward Brown.
Too many businesses, it says, either avoid social media strategy altogether or else jump in without fully understanding the impact it can have on their brand.
As part of the research, hundreds of consumers were also interviewed about their attitudes to businesses with a presence on social media sites.
Respondents revealed their dislike of brands and companies that talk at them via social media, calling for brands to be more relevant, more transparent and to behave more like a friend than a company.
“Consumers dislike gimmicks and want companies to be honest about their products and services, warts and all. Many of the people we interviewed commented on wanting brands to have a ‘human face’, said Rob Hernandez, Global Brand Director at Firefly Millward Brown.
Consumers’ biggest fear is that marketers will turn social media from a community into a marketplace, he added.
Rob Hernandez, also, stated: “[Marketers need to] be comfortable hearing about and talking about your flaws, and that’s not something that’s traditionally done by marketers.”
Unlike the approaches of the past, these new “rules of engagement” for social media mean marketers need to adjust the way they approach consumers. Because they have not fully explored how to go about changing their approach, some companies are paralyzed between doing nothing at all and doing only the bare minimum and thinking they’re done.
“It has a huge opportunity and potential, but many don’t know how to harness it yet,” Hernandez says. “They put up a Facebook page and think that will be sufficient. [Consumers] sniff that out pretty quickly, [thinking] it’s insincere at best and pandering at worst.”
But social media, Hernandez says, are more relationship-based. Therefore, they need much more nurturing and personalization than other approaches. “You have to abandon the corporate mentality and approach and think of it as a person and interact with them as a person,” Hernandez says. “You’ve got to be interesting and be relevant, with a personal connection with [consumers].”
Fostering relationships based on trust and relevance is important because consumers are wary of brands’ encroachment into the social media arena, Hernandez says. “Their number one concern was that [marketers] are going to pretend they have figured it out and co-opt the experience,” Hernandez says. “They would rather it’s a relationship building tool.”
Firefly Millward Brown offers:
10 Ways to Engage with Consumers in Social Media
1. Don’t recreate your home page in social media: don’t rehash the same information people can get elsewhere
2. Listen first, then talk: create a dialogue
3. Build trust by being open and honest: transparency is key
4. Give your brand a face: give consumers someone or something accountable for the brand
5. Offer something of value: give without wanting something in return.
6. Be relevant: don’t be invasive without purpose
7. Talk like a friend, not a corporate entity: speak in simple, casual language
8. Give consumers some control: be comfortable with the fact that you can’t dictate the message any more
9. Let consumers find you/come to you: brands that seek consumers too fervently will be seen as intrusive and interruptive
10. Let consumers talk for you: people will advocate for brands they care about
“Essentially, all social media and social networking are built on inherent circles of trust,” Hernandez concludes. “If you want to engender that level of trust, you’re going to have to be transparent and be willing to accept the good with the bad.”
Why brands need a more human face in social media [marketingweek.co.uk]
Top challenges for brands in social media identified [utalkmarketing.com]