Despite times being tough, our criteria for choosing who we work with has got even tougher. In the good old days, before bank balances took a bashing, investors used to look for big ideas to back. Today, we see venture capitalists investing in the people behind the ideas, in addition to the ideas themselves. Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Sharon Wright, creator of Magnamole is a classic example – the only applicant to have been able to negotiate successfully on percentage equity with the notorious dragons by wowing them with her own business acumen and personality.
In our experience, this transcends to all elements of business. Coming out of the recession, the issue is one of trust. The suppliers we choose to work with are people we know, who are nearby, and who provide us with a consistently quality service. When we’re doing work in Germany, we work with German suppliers, when working in the US we use American suppliers and here we stay with British suppliers.
Google, the uber brand itself, has acknowledged this shift to a preference in local, known, trusted businesses. Google knows where you live and can now give you customised search results based on location. This is not just about being helpful by identifying what is nearby, but about knowing consumers trust businesses they can see and that are local.
To rebuild customer confidence in all lines of business, harnessing this essence of trust is key. Social media portals provide a way to build this trust with customers in an honest and transparent way. If harnessed effectively, this can work for both consumer-facing products and B2B organisations.
Despite this clear shift, our latest survey revealed that senior heads of marketing still don’t truly understand how to harness the power of social media in a relevant and consumer centric way. Our study highlighted that the majority of senior marketers use and view social media in a very different way to consumers. Marketers are more inclined to use social media platforms for business networking purposes and only 53 per cent of them are generating online content, reflecting their personal adoption of the technology. Yet, the survey has also shown that this association between the use of social media and the work place is disconnecting marketers from the way social media is actually being used by consumers, which can make it difficult for companies to develop and roll out appropriate social media strategies.
The majority of marketers surveyed still view social media as a new way to generate good publicity, directly enhancing their reputation. Some 39 per cent of marketers believe that they can influence consumers by tracking fashions and trends on social media platforms and commenting on them in relation to their own companies and brands. On the other hand, consumers do not see themselves being directly influenced by corporate ‘spin’. They perceive social media as a way for companies to listen, build relationships and gain insight that will deliver higher levels of customer service and build trust in the brand.
These are the individuals that are determining how companies utilise social media platforms, so why are they not using them in the same way as their customers? The link between good customer service and brand positivity is intrinsic, and it is interesting that marketers are not connecting the two as closely as they should.
There are a handful of companies, which have mastered the strategy and the effective implementation of a social media programme. Some have great ideas but don’t implement them in the right way, some shy away completely for fear of the unknown, and others are rushing in without thinking about the repercussions for their brand. We’re all at the point where we need to take stock and assess the real methods that are available for brands trying to build consumer trust and respond to the social media buzz, and a clear way of deciding when the medium should be used.