Do You ‘Like’ Me? Will You Be My ‘Friend’?

Do you have a personal Twitter account? And what about a corporate Twitter account? Would you say the same things in a personal tweet as you would using the corporate account?

Almost certainly not, and that’s part of the reason why businesses sometimes struggle to engage with their followers. They see Twitter as a cheap broadcast medium. Instead they ought to be listening more, and talking less.

Isn’t the art of conversation all about listening? People trust people, and are less likely to trust corporates. That’s partly why only 14 per cent of people trust adverts and why ‘word of mouth’ from real people to real people is so effective. When you receive a tweet from a corporate account you’re already slightly prejudiced against the message.

In a recent report published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a YouGov survey showed that only 18 per cent of respondents thought advertising on social media was fairly relevant to them and 61 per cent thought that advertising and marketing on social media was irritating. To the extent that 64 per cent expressed the view that if social media becomes too overloaded with advertising and marketing communications, they were likely to stop using it.

So as a business you might be in danger of damaging your brand unless you use social media carefully. In the same survey more than 52 per cent of marketers themselves thought that the effectiveness of social media as a marketing platform is at risk due to dishonest or unethical behaviour by brands.

The survey of consumers revealed that 17 per cent had searched for a specific brand or organisation, compared to only 11 per cent on Face-book, and 17 per cent had clicked on a link through to a brand’s website. Would that figure be substantially higher if consumers trusted corporate tweets?

Mark Schaefer stated in a recent article that we need to strive to be more human because “Ultimately people will buy from who they know, who they trust.”

Even though they don’t know the people who have posted reviews on comparison sites, they’re more trusted than brands, so for example 65 per cent said they visit a comparison site before making a purchase, with one in three visiting TripAdvisor. Some 20 per cent of consumers place high trust in reviews.

Answer: get individuals to post reviews on behalf of the brand? Wrong. Very wrong.

Although only 22 per cent of consumers can categorically say they have seen brands behaving dishonestly or unethically on social media, suspicion is widespread, with more than 60 per cent finding it difficult to know if brands are using questionable methods. Indeed more than half of marketers surveyed said they had actually seen questionable content on social media such as content arranged by brands but presented as being user-driven, including fake reviews and ‘advertorial’ posing as editorial. No wonder that 44 per cent of consumers say it’s difficult to trust brands on social media.

So are marketers in danger of killing the goose that lays golden eggs? Social media is a really powerful

tool to allow customers to engage with brands for their mutual benefit. Marketers must clean up their act, and quickly. Trust isn’t built on regulation, actions speak louder than words, so The Chartered Institute of Marketing has developed ’10 commandments’ to help businesses to ensure that they are compliant with today’s standards. They’re available to all marketers at; you don’t have to be a CIM member. Businesses can also take our complimentary e-learning tutorial and find out what you can do to keep social honest.

It’s not a case of banning your staff from using social media, quite the reverse. Harnessing employees to help share brand stories through social media can have a more positive impact than negative – in particular supporting internal communications and engaging employees with your brand. However, marketers need to observe two principles: an employee’s voice should be encouraged, not forced; and those employees contributing to your brand’s voice on social media must have their employment by your organisation clearly identified within their social media profile(s). But take care – if your brand name is included in their social media profile simply saying ‘these views are personal’ will not necessarily avoid damage to your brand if they say something inappropriate. We all need to remember the simple rule, which is never to tweet something you wouldn’t say face to face.