Social media should be a component of any comprehensive digital marketing package, but knowing how to harness social media to benefit your company and not harm your brand is not always as simple as it seems. Having a Facebook page and Twitter account is not enough to make you conversant in social media; as is true for any type of effective marketing, there are no short cuts. A company that simply ‘turns up’ in a social media environment without actively and intelligently interacting runs the risk of alienating social media users and, potentially, customers.

Twitter is the latest social media phenomenon, with more and more companies entering the microblogging world and adding to the ever-present digital hum of millions of Tweets (quick posts or status updates of 140 characters or less). While the first Twitter backlash has begun, with some seeing it as no more than “the water cooler of the 21st century” and the author Tim Ferris dismissing it as merely “pointless email on steroids”, it’s popularity both in the social and business sphere is hard to ignore (Dell has 20 Twitter accounts, all managed by individual employees). And indeed, there is a strong argument that a truly dynamic company who wants to use all of the latest marketing tools at their disposal would be churlish to ignore it.

At its very core is interactivity, as is the case for all social media. Never before have mere mortals been able to interact so easily with pop stars, politicians and corporations, and its this interaction between companies and customers that is where the benefits for businesses lie. The results of months of expensive and detailed market research into the popularity of a new product can be attained in days for free by simply calling out via a Tweet. Customer satisfaction can be tracked by monitoring the Tweets about a company, product or service and that company can help assuage any poor feeling by initiating a conversation. Customers feel listened to, vital information on the reception of products and services can be gleaned, and a company can easily go from faceless corporation to a living, breathing, customer-focused group of individuals. And of course it’s a great way to bolster brand awareness, to announce new product launches, company initiatives or special offers.

But this is where business use of Twitter becomes controversial. Social media users are savvy people who are quick to identify a fraud in their midst. Simply posting and not interacting is frowned upon and a sure-fire way to limit your number of followers. Using Twitter as an advertising hoarding will do far more to harm your brand than benefit it. But if your company follows certain rules (be informal; be honest; do more than just ‘turn up’; do more than just sell; interact and engage) and has the time to commit to regular Tweeting, then they could reap the rewards when it comes to branding. And if you don’t have the time, speak to Jumping Spider Media and see how we can help!