Social Media Is No Longer an Imperative

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In the past decade, social media has become a quagmire of marketers competing for consumers’ attention, according to Forrester Research.

“Marketers contributed to the mess. Companies are the party-crashers that social users never invited and are often clueless about what consumers want on social networks,” says Forrester senior analyst Jessica Liu.

Instead of being on social media just because it’s there, Liu says, companies should let consumers lead the conversation, as social media was originally intended.

“Companies need to relax on pushing out content on social media,” she says. “Companies are overzealous in using social media at every possible entry point.

“Social media is a unique, mini-ecosystem that touches every stage of the customer life cycle,” she continues. “Companies have moved beyond basic reach and engagement goals and now try to leverage social media in all facets, from social ads to influencers to buying/commerce to customer service to organic publishing, even when unwarranted.”

Forrester’s Consumer Technographics shows that less than one-quarter (24 percent) of U.S. online adults agree that it’s “cool” to be associated with a company or brand on social media. Additionally, 68 percent don’t feel that companies share interesting content on social media.

Yet too often, companies just blast out messages to customers via social media rather than using the channel to listen to customer concerns.

Social isn’t about companies; it’s about customers, Liu explains. “Listening to consumers is ultimately more important than engaging with them.”

Listening can happen through traditional monitoring but also via social customer service, communities, ratings and reviews, and user-generated content feedback, according to Liu.

Companies shouldn’t go into social media blindly, she advises. Each company needs to make a plan that aligns with what customers expect and be realistic in those expectations.

And then they should be aware of social media’s many flaws, and shouldn’t be afraid to walk away if the channel doesn’t serve their needs or mesh with company values.

According to Forrester, nearly one-third (32 percent) of chief marketing officers cannot show social media’s impact on the business, and even fewer (30 percent) can prove the impact quantitatively.

Liu also cautions that social networks have developed negative reputations for failing to address issues such as misinformation, privacy violations, online bullying, and addictive behavior. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. online adults believe social media does more harm than good, and only 14 percent think what they read on social media is trustworthy.

“Don’t abandon your brand principles for the sake of ‘being on social,’ and don’t succumb to social media Stockholm Syndrome,” Liu advises.

Marketers—or more specifically, advertisers—hold the real purse strings on social media and have the power to stand up to social networks when they misstep or when they don’t provide helpful measurement solutions from inside their walled gardens, she concludes.

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