‘Fail Whale’: When Companies Just Can’t Click

When a public relations professional meets with a client, one of the most important goals is to manage the client’s expectations. Often clients assume that social media is the only way to find people, especially when trying to communicate with youth.
They assume that younger audiences will “like” or “follow” whatever a company pushes and this process is enough when it comes to customer engagement.

On his blog, @Brian Solis, Solis posted a three-part excerpt of his book, The End of Business As Usual. In the second excerpt, “Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows,” Solis describes his horror as he sat in a seminar and listened to a Facebook representative tell a group of public relations professionals that using social media effectively was easy, fun and shouldn’t take too long to do.

In terms of managing expectations with clients, it is important that they understand the real impact of Facebook from a consumer perspective rather that a business perspective. Solis points out that the difference is shocking.  From a consumer’s perspective, the top two reasons consumers interact with social networks are either to receive discounts (61 percent) or to make purchases (55 percent). On the other hand, businesses believe that the top two reasons consumers “follow” or “like” them is either to learn about new products (73 percent) or to collect general information (71 percent).

I happen to agree with Solis. It seems that many organizations tend to assume that social media presence is equal to social engagement and is a short-cut that leads to automatic two-way communication. Instead, it is a tool that helps to socially engage and assist communication.

Britt Johnson of Digital Royalty spoke at the Cronkite School’s PRoSpeak Session on Friday, Oct. 6. She emphasized the importance of training organizations to understand that if they want social media to work, they have to put in a significant amount of hard work to understand the importance of engagement. She said that in a celebrity setting, fans will actually lose interest in a celebrity based on their social media outreach. If fans learn or perceive that a celebrity has hired someone to ghost their Twitter messages, they will have an outright negative reaction. If they had no Twitter at all, they would have remained either positive or neutral toward that celebrity.

It is that kind of mentality that makes it is so crucial for organizations to be educated about both the limitations and opportunities that go into making social media work to their benefit.  It seems that the consensus among public relations professionals is that social engagement is more than social media. In order to properly use the tool, one must master both its strengths and weaknesses.

In your opinion, which company or organization does the best job of using social media as an engagement tool?

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2 Responses to ‘Fail Whale’: When Companies Just Can’t Click

  1. dlkline says:

    I agree with Solis. While social media is a powerful tool, it is not the same as actual social engagement and needs to be managed as such. Social media is in its infancy and we have a long way to go before the jury is out on how to manage it correctly and reap its benefits. Time will tell.

  2. abwolfe says:

    It is always funny how people assume things are so easy without actually testing it. Creating a successful social media campaign in not only hard, but it takes many attempts to get it right. You can’t just post about a product and expect people to like it. Posts should be targeted and calculated where you will have the most success. It takes research and testing and often failures before things actually go right. It is the companies that learn to adapt and pitch properly that survive. The others fall to the wayside. The world of business is definitely Darwinian. Only the strong will adapt and survive.

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