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Consumer Feelings Towards Brands in Social Media Strengthen the Power of WOM

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A new study from Insight Strategy Group concludes that (64%) of people say they “hate” when a company targets them through their social networking profile, and 58% view social media marketing as invasive. The findings also show that over half of respondents find social media sites a great platform for providing companies with customer feedback. Does this mean brands should jump ship from social media efforts? Is any of this a surprise to brand marketers?

Certainly not. I’d argue that the telling notion here is that consumers don’t want social media to become what television advertising was in the worst way – brands sprinting to where the people are and hurling message after message at them. Consumers hate social media marketing, not necessarily brands involved in social media. Contrarily, consumers clearly appreciate the ability to interact with companies online, just when they choose. I’m on Facebook to see pictures of my cousin’s honeymoon and debate NFL coaching decisions, not to be bombarded by mortgage lender offers because I updated my status as “homeowner”. This is isn’t a new concept, that’s for sure. Word of mouth marketing is built on this philosophy – pushing one-way messages to consumers is archaic and insulting, create and engage in meaningful conversations like a real person.

A few months ago we ran a test program for one of our clients that involved free sampling offers via Facebook and Twitter. We monitored online conversations about this client’s industry and jumped in to offer consumers free product based on their tweets and posts. We were smart about it and avoided all spammy words and sentiments, used a staff member’s real name to sign our offers and talked with folks outside of the one-off sampling proposal. Yet we still met quite a bit of resistance, particularly on Twitter. Our biggest problem was that the client didn’t yet have an established reputation in the social media world for high levels of engagement or customer service. On top of that, there were several companies in the same industry using robots to spam similar offers all over the place that the consumer already had a wall up. Unsurprisingly, the few successful cases we did experience came from word of mouth. One person accepted our offer with enthusiasm, allowed us to earn his trust through online (and some offline) communication, then told his friends about the program. Though we had already communicated the exact same offer to some of these people, they instantly became open to it when the client’s brand was validated via this recommendation.

Again, we see how WOM rules all (when done properly, no doubt).


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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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