I was invited to a seminar aimed mainly at PR and branding agencies the other day, themed “The Impact of Socialised Media*”, and was perhaps slightly too sceptical in advance – it was compelling and thrilling from start to finish.
The reason for my scepticism was that I’m from a marketing background, and I firmly believe that there’s not much very new about social media. People have always talked about your brands, products or services, whether you have liked it or not and the marketers have often been deluded that they could strongly influence public opinion in the long term. Sure, an ad campaign in the early days of the web could have some impact, but lasting product reputation had (and still has) come from social factors more than ‘the market’. You’re only as good as your products and prices, essentially.
However, although I still believe this in many ways, the notion that people can publish pretty much what they want about you (and your products) is a reality now, As a Search marketer, I know damn well that in the vast majority of cases, people will trust what they see on the first page of Google results these days far more than pure ‘push’ advertising and marketing.
One person on the panel summed this up with a good example: Searching for a restaurant in York, he went on Google, then expertly hunted out the blogs; he wanted to trust his source, so ‘real’ people who’d blogged themselves about it were the ultimate people to trust. He eventually decided on one restaurant. It was dreadful. Bad research? I don’t know.
Statistics show that very few individuals actively contribute to blogs one percent regularly comment, nine percent comment occasionally and a 90 percent merely consume the blogs. That means that you et an unrepresentative but highly vocal set of commentators. (So what’s changed?!)
Most information passed on is opinion-based and therefore informing the bloggers and blogging yourself is critical in shaping opinions about your business. Be trustworthy, have opinions, and show them. In short, be part of the social networking community.
*The Impact of Socialised Media was run by Blue Skies Careers in Manchester on 12 September 2007