So What? Why Embrace Social Media & The Groundswell

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This is the first in a series of “So What?” blog posts, introducing social media to brands. As we move throughout this series, I’ll cover more sophisticated topics such as ROI, the social consumer, analytics, social strategy and more.

so what? social media

So what?

In an age of limitless social networks, of Mustafa the Old Spice Guy, of Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, there are still a sea of executives wondering:

“So what? – what’s the point of all this ‘social media’?”

The pervasiveness of social media is undeniable. As of August 2012, 69% of online adults use social networking sites. But why should brands and marketers alike spend their time and money developing a social media strategy? The simple answer is that they cannot afford NOT to. Here’s why:

Why should brands embrace the social media “trend?”

Since the first real social network in 1996, consumers have been privy to more information and more connections to brands and each other than ever before. We have more knowledge at our fingertips and we have the ability to share that knowledge using just 140 characters (if we like).

Along with the incipience of social networking sites, came a fundamental change in our online behavior. Forrester calls it the “groundswell” – by their definition it’s “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions…” It started with networks like Craigslist and Napster – allowing people to share music or apartment vacancies. And now, people turn to one another for advice about almost every aspect of their lives – including which products to buy and brands to give their loyalty.

Customers have always formed opinions about what a brand signifies and shared that with their friends over a few drinks. Now, as a part of the groundswell, they’re spreading that opinion online, in seconds, to an exponential number of people. They’re posting reviews on Yelp, tweeting about your brand, etc.,  and by doing so, they’re redefining your brand one post, tweet, review at a time. In fact, a recent study by Massrelevance found that 75% of consumers use social to find & share info about brands.

The balance of power has changed and is now in the hands of your consumer.

As a consequence of these connections, this knowledge, and the ease of sharing amongst our network, brands are now forced to be more open, more transparent, more consumer-centric, and more connected themselves. It’s no longer okay to sit back and watch others participate, now brands must listen to and engage with the groundswell in order to get its attention and help influence the conversation.

Connected consumers simply will not accept brands that aren’t participating, aren’t listening, or aren’t responding to them in real time. Convinced yet?

Stay tuned for more in our “So What?” series about social media, ROI, strategy and more. And – feel free to leave suggestions for “So What?” posts in the comments below.

To learn more about the groundswell, check out Groundswell (the revised edition) by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff.

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