Communication is a fundamental human need. However, as Will Egan explains, Twitter and Facebook can become costly distractions from the main game if companies don’t understand where their communities are coming from.
It’s March 2010 and the third quarter results are about to be released. The marketing department has logged record expenditure, yet turnover stayed the same. The drum beat of Twitter and ceremonious waltz of Facebook has reached the CEOs office — he now spends a few minutes every day wondering why he joined these communities. The whole office is now full of social media butterflies. So why is turnover the same? Why is this potentially lucrative online communication not working? Oh, and why are strangers constantly re-tweeting my tweets?
In walks the guy who hasn’t just hopped on the bandwagon; the guy who has an actual online community and ‘friends’, not followers. He doesn’t want followers or to follow any one — he wants to lead. He tells you you’re doing it all wrong. But why? Aren’t Twitter and Facebook easy to use? Well he might be right. His succeeds because his online community also exists in the real world. The people he connects with actually care about what he is doing and have genuinely interacted with him in real life.
Human interaction and communication, in its fundamental form, has been the same for thousands of years. We’ve had the need to communicate hardwired in our biology for as long as birds have been tweeting.
Communication hasn’t changed, but the means by which we do so has. The same things you once wrote in cursive, such as a love letter, now gts shrtnd in2 a txt. Long-distance phone calls that you used to cut short so you could afford to make rent now take place on skype… in front of your computer. Meanwhile, you’re talking to friends on MSN, asking a Chinese seller on eBay a question about his automatic coin sorting machine auction and looking at pictures of a random girl you once met at a club on Facebook.
You’re still communicating. You are receiving and sending out messages, information, voices, images, opinions, questions, tweets, murmurs and statements. But where do companies fit into this equation? Do they fit in at all? And don’t they want customers, not friends?
It’s all well and good making friends with people, but you’re a business and you need customers. A year later you’re bankrupt, but don’t worry you have heaps of friends. They are also friends with your competitors too!
Socialising online is a great way for companies, brands and products to communicate and connect with people online. There is a place for social media within a company and, more importantly, within their marketing mix, but that’s a whole other article.
The important thing is that you are there for the right reasons.
Will Egan blogs about marketing, entrepreneurs and web usability at willegan.com.
Photo: Kevin Dooley