Dying to make a profitable social connection

Hanleigh Daniels

Not so long ago, marketers only used a limited range of mass communication channels such as newspapers, radio, and television to drive awareness about their companies’ products and services and consequently get customers into stores to buy and subscribe.

Today, the internet and social media platforms have enabled customers to find all the info they need on said products and services, do pricing and benefits comparisons, read reviews, and participate in forums.

Businesses are utilising these channels to engage with customers, communicate, create leads, and turn once-off customers into loyal brand fans.

In order to achieve this, they cannot use the social media channels in the same way they utilised mass communication channels, as this approach will just lead to them becoming part of the digital noise and blend into conversations.

Successful brands will be the ones that engage people in personal, authentic and topical conversations. The laborious task of discovering these is made simpler thanks to the advent of data analytics tools that enable marketers to better understand their customers. But there is another ingredient to the recipe of relevant, engaging content and that is sound judgement.

Ready, aim misfire

Sound judgement and an authentic voice is required to know what the correct, relevant and trending topics are for the brand to talk about and engage their audience on. Case in point being the recent passing of R&B singer Prince.

After news spread on social networks of the singer’s death, thousands of fans and celebrities who knew him took to social networks to talk about how they felt, how they will miss him and what his music meant to them amongst other things.

This caused hastags such as #RIPPrince and #Prince to trend, which in turn caused exploitative marketers and advertisers to become uninvited guests on the mourning bandwagon. Their mistake was not entering the conversation but utilising the “opportunity” to punt their products such as the post (image below) by Cheerios. This tactic did not sit well with consumers who berated the brand. Cheerios quickly removed the post.

Their actions created an ‘Authenticity Gap’ – the gap between consumers’ expectations and their actual experience of a company or brand. In order for organisations to succeed in a world where the business and its management are under increasing scrutiny, understanding expectations is fundamental. Companies must align what they say, particularly over social channels and how they behave (the brand) with the shared perceptions of others (the reputation).