How social media amplifies - for better or worse
(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) "The amplification is extraordinary and very cost-effective," said IBM marketing VP Caroline Taylor when The Guardian asked her how her company uses social media.
She is right, but the same community that one day propagates a carefully prepared marketing message can also work against you, as Microsoft's Skype discovered when its Twitter account was hacked by activists on New Year's Day, and their negative message posted to over three million followers and retweeted more than 8000 times.
How then can marketers ensure that social media delivers the right kind of amplification? Compromised accounts are a special case, though there will inevitably be more high profile incidents in 2014, but the lesson here (password security aside) is that it pays to be vigilant even on public holidays. It took Microsoft over two hours to clean up its Twitter account, which is an age in internet time.
The risks of inappropriate tweets, which of course are those most quickly retweeted, also give ammunition to those who are cautious about having a social media presence. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks; but careful training and sensible policies are important.
The key to positive amplification is to be interesting. Bland marketing will not do. The public likes to hear from real people with real influence, which is why those few companies with CEOs or well-known executives who tweet – like Marc Benioff at Salesforce (81,000 followers), Virgin's Richard Branson (over three million followers), or Google's Eric Schmidt (742,000 followers) - have an immediate advantage. Having a celebrity on the payroll is not a necessity; any business benefits from getting their strongest voices out there on social media.
Every business today is to some extent living under a social media microscope, but despite the risks and responsibilities that implies, the ability of social media to amplify a message is a marketer's dream.
(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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