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The future of social media

October 22, 2012

Two things today sparked off a debate at work; the first was an article in the FT citing financial services institutions as being slow off the mark to embrace social media as a communication tool, the second was a viral email around O2’s creative use of Twitter in handling a particular customer’s ‘enquiry’. You can see both articles here (FT is behind a paywall):

They raised an interesting question around how businesses are going to engage with their target markets in the future. The more experienced heads saw social as just being ‘one channel of many’, a sales and marketing tool to be treated the same as traditional channels, whereas it tended to be the younger consultants who perceived this as a genuine move towards a new normal in fusing sales, marketing and customer services into a one-stop shop.

Let’s take Twitter as a foundation for discussion. In the current state of the world, companies appear to be using Twitter in two distinct ways: as PR tools and as a social customer service. The example from O2 takes the first step of fusing the two concepts together; as does this one from Douwe Egberts coffee:

The first group of companies using the platform as a PR tool, generate buzz about the companies in traditional ways, whether that’s directly promoting their products, using endorsements or by just being so downright bizarre that they generate attention (Betfairpoker and Arena Flowers being my two personal favourites)

The second are using the ‘social’ aspect to engage with customers directly – I’d sooner tweet a company with a complaint or query as it’s quick, direct and puts the onus on the company to respond in such a public forum. How many of you have seen irate tweets directed at train operators or national rail when confronted with delays and cancellations?

But how much longevity does either approach have? Will Twitter PR campaigns become less of a novelty as they become a standard channel for marketers? How scalable and feasible is it to run a customer contact centre in such a public forum (and with only 140 characters to play with?). How will this merging of sales and marketing – traditionally two separate business units – play out in organisations?

I’d be really interested if anyone has any views on the future state in this area; this is the sort of cutting edge thinking that we, as young consultants should look to be leading on!


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One Comment
  1. Getting good at social media is hard work, most companies are now able to hit the basics but engaging like this on a personal level really differentiates a company and the ripple/ multiplier effect of doing this in a public forum is huge.

    To answer one of the OP’s questions, longevity is hard to predict. The effectiveness of “look at this and buy it” use of social media is surely limited as the novelty of a new medium will wear off. Conversely event based customer interaction as shown above is a whole new chapter in customer service as eluded to in the article and is set to change how companies interact with their customers in a big way.

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