Friday, July 25, 2008

Plurkshop #9 Recap: The Downsides of Social Media and Social Networking

As I've written about before, I'm a big fan of Plurk. What I love about Plurk is how the format and threaded conversations encourage users to have a much greater level of interaction and connection than you find on some other social sites. And a great example of this is the creation of Plurkshops. Plurkshops are where someone on Plurk agrees to 'host' a conversation around a set topic, at a set time. These have been fantastically popular, with most now averaging 400 replies an hour.

The latest Plurkshop was hosted on Thursday by marketing expert Lewis Green of L&G Business Solutions, on the topic of The Downsides of Social Media and Social Networking. I'll recap the conversation here, but please make a point to review the thread for yourself here as Plurkshops always have so much good information that it's hard to catch all of it in one post.

First, Lewis asked us how effective are our blogs in reaching our audience/customers? He cited a recent Pew internet study that said that 'only' 50% of internet users read blogs (Lewis clarified that Pew reported 35% read blogs in 2006), and added that for any individual blog, that readership is obviously only a very small fraction of that. He asked us how we can reach our intended audience, if we aren't?

Teeg made a great point that she can reach an intended audience by sharing links on other social sites, and by adding a relevant context. She explains that doing so on one social site netted her 350 hits in an hour. Greg Hollingsworth added that the threaded conversation format on Plurk allows us to add greater context to each link, as opposed to Twitter.

Lewis then asks if it really helps your business if your blog has a large readership, and how do you reach your customers if they aren't reading blogs? Marjorie, Greg Hollingsworth and myself all noted the importance of going out and finding your customers, going to other blogs and social sites, or even message boards and forums, and interacting with them there. This helps raise your blog's awareness with the group of customers that you are trying to target.

Lewis then asks why would businesses spend time with social media? Janechin reminded us that social media needs to be a long-term business strategy, not an attempted short-term fix. Lewis then makes the claim that most of a blog's readers are already customers for that company, and the company wants to see them converted into evangelists, if they aren't already. Greg Hollingsworth then makes the great point that social media in a business-sense isn't simply about connecting, it's about engaging on that connection.

Greg then added that most businesses are using social media to attempt to draw in new customers. Sonnygill added that he believes this is because upper management at many companies see blogs as selling tools. Cambeck clarified that social media can be used to draw in new customers, or reach existing ones. Lewis then claimed that social media should not be the main way to reach your customers, or to build a business around. (BTW I agree with Lewis that in MOST cases this is true, but if social media is the main way that your customers are connecting with each, and offers you the best way to reach them, then you need to follow their lead).

We then discussed how focusing on only new customers could lead to deteriorating relationships with existing ones. I maintain that in most cases, embracing and empowering your existing evangelists is more important, and they will help you draw in new customers with their excitement and enthusiasm for your brand. Lewis echoed this, saying that the main goal should be to service existing customers well, so they will draw in new customers via positive WOM. BethHarte then pointed out that social media is a great way to stay in touch with customers and keep them involved. Marjorie added that "current customers may love the attn and then turn into your evangelists who can complete your marketing cycle for you".

Marjorie then asked for examples of companies that are successfully using Twitter to reach their customers, and Dell, Zappos and Comcast were mentioned. Adreich added Flock.

Janechin offered that companies that attempt to use SM to establish their brand would become frustrated very quickly, and Lewis agreed (Stormhoek might argue this ;)).

DaveWebb asked for examples of the 'downsides' of SM and SN. Lewis said that many businesses simply not understanding how to use social media, is a downside. Marjorie added that businesses can run into trouble quickly with SM if they don't pick the right people to run their efforts. I added that a downside to SM can be if companies are using it without making sure that their goals for the initiatives match their overall business goals and objectives. Connie echoed this, and BethersJR added you can run into problems if you dont monitor what is being said about your company. Greg added that another problem is when companies attempt to use social media as direct marketing, and measure it as such. BethHarte added a great point in that companies can run into problems if they only look at Dell and think that SM can be a 'fix all'.

Connie then discussed companies creating their own socnets. Teeg added that this can work if it's an area that isn't being serviced by an existing socnet. Connie cautioned that it's only wise to do so if a company-created socnet helped the company achieve its larger business goals.

Alanwolk then added an interesting point, he implied that what works for blogging social media consultants in building their audience probably wouldn't work for our clients. Alan says this is because bloggers link to bloggers, and don't want to offend each other. I disagree with this because first, offending another blogger is usually the quickest way to get them to link to you and other bloggers to link to you. Mike Arrington has long said that he gets many links from 'fights' he gets in with other A-Listers.

But to the more relevant point, I think good bloggers grow their audience by creating valuable content for their readers, and interacting with those readers in THEIR space, as well as their own. This is something that any blogging company can, and should replicate. Much of Dell's blogging success doesn't happen on Direct2Dell, it happens on other blogs and Twitter. It happens because Dell has employees out interacting with and responding to current and potential customers on OTHER social sites. This is what other blogging companies must do as well to grow their audiences.

BTW please read the thread for yourself because I purposely did NOT cover every point raised. I tried to cover the main ones that generated the most conversation, but there's still plenty of great points and quotes in here!

If you want to get info on future Plurkshops, make sure you follow Plurkshops on Plurk!


Anonymous said...

Whew! Nice job on encapsulating a frenetic conversation!

One thing I found interesting was how in a discussion about the "downside" of social media, we as social media advocates found it difficult not to trumpet it's virtues instead! Not sure we really nailed it regarding the topic, but one thing is for sure, no one would be able to accuse Plurkers of not being passionate about social media after reading the thread & your recap!

Mack Collier said...

Dave I get what you are saying. But I think from our point of view is that we understand that people are reading that might not see what the advantages of these tools are, or understand why they should be using them. That's why I think when someone DID point out a downside to SM/SN, someone was quick to point out 'but if you do it THIS way, then you'll be ok'. Otherwise it's like we are telling everyone what's wrong, without telling them how to fix it.

SM definitely isn't appropriate in every case, but it can work in many, if executed properly.

Anonymous said...

I wish plurk was truly threaded, right now it is just one long thread so there is no way to split of individual responses to specific statements, when they get real threading it will be fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Karl, if we have something that blends Plurk with I'd be in heaven. Have so many "fav plurks" I wish I can find easily without searching or scrolling endlessly.

Mack Collier said...

Jane, The A-Team def needs to add the ability to fav a Plurk. So many Plurk users are asking for it that I would think they'll add this soon.

Karl it also seems like all they would have to do is add the ability to reply to a reply to a Plurk, to make it threaded in the manner you want. But that might completely confuse the hell out of me in real-time. Would make the Plurkshops easier to read AFTER the fact, tho.

Gavin Heaton said...

Great recap, Mack. Isn't it interesting the way this is working ... we have a Plurk conversation that is then summarised on a blog, teasing out some of the discussion points, and then comments adding value to the points raised.

This is where the value lives for me ... and probably for most brands too. Smart analysis, insight and suggestions for improvement can spark innovation for most companies/brands. All you need to do is listen in -- and really, that just costs a small amount of you precious attention a couple of times a week.

Ari Herzog said...

Have you heard any dialogue, Mack, about companies utilizing social networking as an alternate means to physically contacting firms they'd like to do business with?

Are you seeing any online relations forming specifically on Plurk, Twitter, etc. as a substitute for months of back-to-back networking meetings?

Anonymous said...

I plan to read the rest of the thread as soon as I finish my morning (we're located in Europe, so it's morning here) tasks. I hope it says something about social media being a great way to complement/perpetuate traditional marketing.