Marketers have long recognized the tremendous opportunities presented by social media. In theory, it can enable them to laser-target their messages, be timely and engage in almost a one-on-one relationship with customers and prospects.
In theory... that's the key phrase that's been tricky for so many marketers to get past. Theory doesn't always seem to match up with reality.
This is proven by a recent survey of consumers in the U.S., U.K., Australia, France and Germany. It shows that 65% of respondents said they would stop using a brand if it annoyed them on a social media site. Forty percent said they would be annoyed by receiving messages from a brand they haven’t followed. And even among those who follow a brand, only 48% said they felt positive about receiving marketing messages. That means more than half don't want to be bothered by blatant marketing messages.
The survey bears out what we already suspected, that social media is a good and accepted source of word-of-mouth recommendations. Sixty-eight percent of consumers say they've investigated a product recommended by friend online, and 15% actually made a purchase based on an online recommendation.
The challenge for marketers is how to engage and get across marketing information without turning people off online. We've come to accept ads and other marketing messages on many media platforms like TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and even online sites like YouTube and Vimeo, where we've learned to sit through the 15-second pre-roll ad before we can see the video we really clicked to see.
But social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have a more personal feel to them, where an ad or marketing message can feel like an unwelcome intrusion ... almost an invasion of privacy.
I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge, but some marketers might be able to overcome possible negative feelings if they carefully -- very carefully -- temper what they say and how often they say it via social media. The trick is to provide useful information --useful to your consumer, not necessarily useful to you the marketer. And do it only when it's really appropriate. Too much can be a turnoff, even to loyal customers. At first, it can be just an annoyance. But keep peppering people with messages and they may eventually "unfollow" or "unlike you."
Each marketer must find the mix of messages and frequency that works for their customers -- emphasis is on "works for their customers" and not on what works for the marketer. It's a slippery slope, for sure, and it's not for everyone.