Social media expert Stewart Dawes takes us through the possibilities and pitfalls of social media
Social media is one of the most powerful forms of communication in modern-day society. In its early days, it was a tool to connect with family and distant friends. However, it has fast become a hugely influential device, arming the regular person with a public voice that can reach millions in a matter of seconds.
Rather than subjecting themselves to long, costly and arduous phone conversations with major multinational companies, consumers are contacting corporates through Facebook and Twitter and receiving responses within minutes. The benefits of this are mutual – the customer’s problem is resolved quickly, and the company scores public points for its quick competency.
But, while companies such as Virgin and Vodafone can use social media to their marketing advantage, could it be too risky for brokers?
The director of Australia’s Atomic Social Media, Stewart Dawes, weighs up the pros and cons.
“Social media can create a huge PR factor for a broker, but only if it is done well and the company commits to it at an advanced level,” he says. “But the company has to be willing to step ahead of its competitors.”
As the Australian public increasingly use social media to gauge opinion on companies and issues, Dawes believes companies that devise a comprehensive social media strategy can easily score brownie points with customers.
“There is potential for clients to look in touch with the trends and social media-savvy customers,” he explains. “If a broker fixes a customer’s problem and is seen to be doing so in social media, that can be hugely positive.
“You can ask customers what they want from your business and how you can improve customer service. This way the company is perceived as having a culture of customer engagement and perhaps that perceived culture is more important than the actual service provided,” he says.
Dawes points out that brokers can also save on
“It is much cheaper to interact with customers via Twitter or Facebook than via a phone call or face-to-face,” he explains. “It can save you money on staff costs over time.”
But he warns against brokers using social media to market products and services.
“If you have sales-driven pursuit and use social media to broadcast your message or flog your products and services, people will turn off,” he says. “By doing that you are not being very social. People do not use social media to be spammed.”
However, social media, for all its benefits, can potentially cause reputational damage. In the run-up to Sydney’s mayoral elections, candidate Clover Moore took to Twitter to ramp up her campaign, using (hashtag) #teamclover. However, a number of social commentators hijacked the hashtag and used it to verbally abuse Moore.
“Every third or fourth tweet was negative,” Dawes says, “but she had enough support to not let the negative social media affect her campaign. I’m not sure small brokers will. They might find there is a definite risk in engaging in social media. It can open them up to community backlash that they did not think was possible.”
While social media can be extremely beneficial, Dawes says, “there is also the potential to look like a laughing stock if the strategy is ill-thought-out”.
Stewart Dawes is the director of Atomic Digital Marketing, a boutique SEO and social media agency he started after a 15-year career in magazine publishing. Apart from managing and developing clients’ online presence across everything from Google rankings to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, he delivers social media training to government organisations, businesses and universities. His main passion is continuing to live up to the adage that small businesses can be giant killers online.