February 3, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media Marketing (Part 1)

An example of social media failure.

Sears - an example of social media failure.

Everyone seems to be buzzing about Social Networks and how to take advantage of them for marketing purposes. It is a great opportunity for companies to join a conversation that’s already taking place rather than trying to start a new one. As with any conversation, you have to listen. Imagine walking into a crowded party and just starting to talk about things that interest you without bothering to figure out the current topic of the conversation. How would people react?

Here is my step-by-step guide to getting into the social networking fray.

1. Plan: Before getting involved, ask yourself, “What are my business goals and how do I plan on measuring them?” Only then can you develop a plan to make social media a part of that success.
2. Listen: Begin monitoring the current conversations to find out if people are talking about you and what they’re saying.
3. Evaluate: Is there a prevailing positive or negative tone to the existing conversations?
4. Engage: Social networks can be a great opportunity for customer service, as you’ll see in the examples below.
5. Promote: The final—I repeat, final—step of playing in the social network sandbox is promotion of your goods or services. Once you are a part of the conversation, then you can start changing its direction.

Now for some examples, I’ll start with the ugly: a recent encounter with the Sears service department regarding my washing machine. I won’t bore you with the gory details of the electronic problems that are still ongoing. What I found to be interesting was a Google search I did when looking for their phone number.

To begin my search, I typed “sears service” into the search field. The first result, as you would expect, was Sears.com. It was the second result, right before service.sears.com, that really caught my eye: a YouTube video entitled “Sears Service Sucks”. Since this summed up my mood at the time, I clicked it first. A video of a very disgruntled fella in the same boat as myself then went on a rant about his experience.

“So what? What difference does one guy ranting make?” you might ask. Well, this video has been online for more than two years and continues to gather steam. It has over 44,000 views and most traffic is coming from searches for “Sears,” “Sears service” and “Sears repairs,” with another significant chunk of action coming virally. Sears has missed a gigantic opportunity to make things right with one consumer and change the conversation that’s happening online.

So, our interactive department did a little social network survey to see how Sears is doing now. We found the current conversation dominated by people looking for do-it-yourself advice or seeking reliable local repair people with occasional complaints about the products. Daily opportunities for customer service and sales of Sears’ repair program continue to go by unnoticed.

Read more in part 2 (coming tomorrow).

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