Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

You would think at this point that we'd be up to curiosity or even playful experimentation.

But it seems that, according to the e-tailing group and PowerReviews' survey earlier this month that brands are still hesitant to entirely give over to the power of social media for fear of (what else?) loss of control of their brand and concerns about their competence. A secondary fear is that consumers might find social sites more engaging than the brands' sites, and therefore stop visiting the brands'

I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but if I were at a brand that was concerned customers might leave my site for a better site I might, oh, I don't know...maybe BUILD A MORE ENGAGING SITE?!?!?!

That's only a start. Another course is to engage with consumers where they want to be reached. When the surveyed companies state that their goals of using social media are: to increase engagement, build brand loyalty, and spur word of mouth. If that's the case, you don't get there by (a) ignoring where the rest of the world is going; or (b) burying your head in the sand in terms of these sites.

The good news is that half of the suggested activities/sites mentioned in the survey (Facebook page, Twitter, customer reviews, blogs and viral [sic] videos) are already accepted or used by more than half of the respondents. That's a great start, but there's more potential.

Before I make a recommendation, I'd like to review a crude approximation that I've been working on - it's how some brands and agencies approach social media with trepidation. Because it's not unlike how humans deal with grief, I've developed a similar model for marketers:

The 5 Stages of Social Media Grief
(With apologies to Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross.)

  1. Denial - first stage of social media grief in which the marketer refuses to acknowledge the existence of social media. This was the case early on in the industry's development. Luckily, I don't think there are many companies left that think like this.
    Common phrases: "It's just a kid's thing," or "It's just a fad."
    Common behaviors: avoiding the Internet, putting hands over ears and singing "I can't heeeeeaaaarr yoooouuuuu. La la laaaaa."

  2. Anger - In the second stage, jealousy and rage are misplaced and rage ensues.
    Common phrases: "This is stupid," "I've got better things to do with my time."
    Common behaviors: full-fledged slave to work email; increase in print or television media buy to show effectiveness and superiority.

  3. Bargaining -Anger gives way to hope that incremental adoption of social media will be enough to make a difference.
    Common phrases: "If we have a Facebook page, we should be covered," "Let's just create a blog," or "Let the agency figure it out."
    Common behaviors: the use of social media only in time-limited campaigns; half-hearted efforts on a limited number of social sites.

  4. Depression -The fourth stage manifests itself in an understanding that the inevitable cannot be delayed and the marketer becomes doleful.
    Common phrases: "Twitter/Google/Facebook is taking over the world," or "We're overwhelmed with choices."
    Common behaviors: moping; pacing; complaining to friends on Facebook.

  5. Acceptance -With the final stage, the marketer finally realizes that social media is here to stay and begins to determine ways to integrate activities and craft strategies that are truly integrated.
    Common phrases: "Let's craft a comprehensive social media strategy," or "Let's spend some time listening to what consumers are saying about us."
    Common behaviors: integration of marketing and communications functions, determination of measurement goals, online and offline alignment from the beginning of projects.

As we know in dealing with emotional grief, you can't skip steps - you have to go through them. Some folks may be stubborn and may take a while, while others may be ahead of the curve and breeze through them quickly. [Aside: in 2004, when I heard Elisabeth Kubler-Ross died, my grieving went as follows: "No that can't be true. Curse you, Lord, no just God would take her from us. I wish she was back. Geez, life stinks. Oh, well, that's the circle of life."].

Now, in order to address those fears and to get on with the acceptance, why not start by aligning your social media activities with your business plan and your overall marketing and communications objectives? A second step would be to listen, listen and listen - get a sense as to what's being said about your brand and how people engage on these social platforms.

And then if you'd like to make a more engaging site for customers, consider integrating or aggregating content from third party social sites or services right there on your own web page. Give people a chance to find contextually relevant material from other sources on your site. We've done it on the Fiesta Movement site and we continue to do it in a variety of ways on The Ford Story.

The thinking there is that people will go out and search for other peoples' opinions on your products anyway. Why not give them something contextually relevant while they're on your site and provide value? It's an acknowledgment - dare I say acceptance? - that the world around us is changing.

Photo credit: tavopp on Flickr
Chart credit: eMarketer