Firms should be clever about social media, says insider

2013-12-03 12:20
Facebook. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Facebook. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Companies should use social media to engage with customers individually rather than as simply another marketing channel, a reputation manager has asserted.

"Some of the biggest missteps companies make these days is to treat social media as just another marketing channel, similar to broadcast media," Gordon Geldenhuys, head of Online Reputation Management at Acceleration Media.

Companies have jumped on social media as a marketing channel, driving brand awareness and content online, but the results have not always led to an increase on the bottom line.

Geldenhuys said that messages on social media should appeal to an informed consumer who may not have brand loyalty.

"Today’s customer is ever connected, always on, highly opinionated and on the move. This is a customer that now understands that they have power and they know how to use it. They have expectations and they have choices if those expectations aren’t met."


In South Africa big brand retailers like Pick n Pay and Woolworths have embraced social media and have a significant presence on Facebook.

However, the strategy doesn't always result in positive feedback for the companies, even though Pick n Pay and Woolworths have around 477 000 and 308 000 likes respectively.

Customer posts on the Woolworths Facebook page centred on complaints about clothing items to call centre agents, while on the Pick n Pay page, complaints about competitions and pensions were posted.

People use the platform to complain about shopping experiences they have had on the platform, and if brands don't respond, consumers are often offended.

Geldenhuys said that customers who utilise social media could use the medium to report on their experience in a way that could have far-reaching consequences for the company.

"They also have a voice and it is loud and far reaching. To earn their loyalty goes way beyond a loyalty programme. You need to earn their trust."


A Pew research study recently found that sentiment on social media can shift quickly. In the US, Twitter sentiment on same sex marriage shifted from 55% negative to 43% positive in a period of just one month.

The research noted that social media sentiment may match public opinion, but it was not a reliable indicator.

Geldenhuys warned that social media has equalised the landscape and companies had to accept that their social media properties were controlled by customers.

"Social Media is all about bringing the company closer to the customer. Customers choose to engage with organisations on their own terms."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    pick n pay  |  facebook  |  woolworths  |  social networks

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