Just Tweeting around | Brand Republic Feature

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I’ve just been through a whirlwind of social media lately. Conferences, projects, discussions, it’s left me feeling quite anti-social about the whole thing. But stay your burning pitchforks. Do not assault my door as you Tweet that you’ve found a non-believer.

Let me make it clear. I do believe in social media. I just want us to approach this with a rational mind (strange coming from a creative I know). The fact is Social Media is great for developing groundswell. It’s fantastic for connecting with customers and people generally. Indeed it’s even a handy tool for customer services. But however you use it, you must check its relevance to the brand, audience and objectives. And equally important, can the budget accommodate it?

There’s no point hanging all of your spend on a social media strategy when you need to drive sales. There’s equally no point spending zero on social media when you want to create a dialogue with and between your audience.Where we’ve found it to work very well is as part of an integrated solution.

We can and should apply classic techniques to help decide social media’s usefulness. Then create situations, opportunities and dialogue that are sensitive to the needs of the audience and medium itself. I’ve attended too many conferences and meetings where I’m told the future is solely social media. It’s not. Apparently, just saying that means I face eternity in purgatory, being virtually flogged by iphone-wielding demons.

The future is actually in delivering relevant communications through the most appropriate channels in the most suitable way. Thus enabling people to access brands in the way that they want.Guess what? I might not want to opt in to your really ‘crazy’ email or open up my inbox to constant messaging. Maybe I just want to know the time a train leaves or want to buy something anonymously (The internet’s great for avoiding the overbearing sales assistants, don’t ruin it).

In the past marketing has pushed, its pulled and cajoled. Sometimes we’ve tried to have ‘conversations’ with people. But let’s not kid ourselves, we’ve just shouted at different volumes.DM was never really that dialogue. Very few marketing departments sanctioned activity that didn’t up-sell, cross-sell or retain. TV, outdoor and press ads rarely do anything different.But today people don’t want to be pulled and pushed. They want brands to be available in the way they want, when they want. And now they can, thanks to the rise of social media.

But let’s face facts. The commercial and not-for-profit sectors both have a bottom line to feed. Avoid that elephant in the room at your peril. Because eventually it will stamp on your Bebos, and that’s going to hurt.So you’ll still need to ‘push’ and ‘pull’. But make sure your strategy displays your sensitive side – just don’t feel bad if people abuse it, because the odds are some will.

Equally you can use social media to help feed your sales cycle. Use interactions on this channel to reach out and develop conversations, get to know these people. Treat them well and they’ll become advocates. Then ensure you maintain and nurture that relationship.If someone tells you they love you and you never get in touch, they’re going to feel more than a little disappointed. So don’t start a relationship if you can’t maintain it.

Make sure you’re consistent in your style of communication, ensure the off and online experiences connect. Things work better when they’re coordinated.One of the best examples of Twitter I recently heard was a full time Twitter/blogger (yes that’s all they’re employed to do) picked up a thread started by an irate customer. She intervened, Tweeted with them directly, liaised with customer services and resolved their problem. The Twit turned into an advocate. Brilliant.But before you all run off thinking there you go then. Bear in mind this person was on a salary. It can be a big investment of human and financial resources.

So social media? Yes please, but only if it fits with my commercial objectives and I can afford – both in time and money – to integrate it as part of my plan.