My name is Zunaira Afzal and I am an MSc student from the University of Birmingham (UK), studying Marketing Communications. I am currently doing research on my dissertation based on social media. My dissertation aims to investigate the impact of social media on brands, identifying whether or not social media is an effective communication tool for brands.
I came across your report, Social media: the business communication landscape, and I found it interesting, as my dissertation aims to highlight the changing media and communication landscape, and the impact social media has on brands, should all brands be using social media?
I would be grateful if you could answer some of my questions for my dissertation, which are based on your views and opinions of social media, and how social media has impacted brands.
I would be grateful if you could reply to my questions by Friday 13th August. Thank you so much in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.
1) How long have you been using social media?
I have been actively involved with social media since March 2005
2) How effective do you think social media has been to companies who use it?
Only as effective as how they think through the strategic questions around its use: Who are they looking to reach; Why do they want to reach them; What outcomes do they want from the conversation; What are they willing to disclose about themselves to make the conversation happen and maintain it; Who within the organisation is going to manage the conversation process and what authority and responsibility are they going to have to ensure the conversation is mutually beneficial?
Those organisations and companies that don’t think through these questions (and other questions like them) are risking turning a long-term benefit into a short-term gain then long-term loss.
3) Do you think there are any business advantages of using social media over traditional media?
Social media allows businesses to engage with their target audiences (consumers, potential consumers, suppliers, other industry players, etc.,) to the benefit of all. Traditionally expensive focus groups, for example, can be passed over for inexpensive surveys amongst conversational constituents. Cheap-to-run time-sensitive sales offers and trials can be quickly tailored to micro-niches rather than having to rely on an expensive and slow mass-market campaign.
4) Do you think social media should be used as part of an integrated marketing communications (IMC) campaign or can social media be effective as a campaign on its own?
It depends entirely on the overall business strategy and the goal of the marketing campaign. Both are effective ways of reaching target audiences.
5) Does the use of social media depend on your target market, or do other factors affect the decision to use social media?
It almost totally depends on your target market. If your market is not yet active in the social media/networking space then it makes little sense to use such channels UNLESS you are also looking (as part of your overall strategy) to position the organisation as forward-thinking, leading-edge, innovative, and so on.
6) Do you think social media is only effective for certain brands, or do you think that it can be effective for all brands?
I think it can be effective for all brands as long as the target audience is where your social media initiatives are being run (e.g. there’s little point in running campaigns for Aston Martin and Rolls Royce on MySpace).
7) What are your views on user generated content (UGC), should companies encourage it?
UCG can be a tremendous asset for a company, as long as the company maintains some semblance of control over the process of either construction or dissemination. So, for example, the company can provide the imagery, audio elements, etc., and allow evangelists to assemble them in whatever order they like. Similarly, the company can offer to run the best examples of UCG on its own website and thus have a little control over dissemination. But the organisation must remember that wherever evangelists are there are also disgruntled customers who may be willing to take the elements of construction and create something negative, then use channels like YouTube, etc., to disseminate their work. There is nothing the company can do about this. Even without offering any content with which to play, evangelists and disgruntled ‘non-fans’ alike can create content that subsequently becomes popular and goes viral.
In order to counter any bad will from the disgruntled, the company should already have been actively engaging with evangelists and as many ‘non-evangelist but still happy’ customers as it could in order to generate online goodwill and an unpaid online army who will come to its defence should a crisis hit.
8) What are your views on augmented reality? Should companies be considering promoting products and getting their brands on augmented reality?
AR is still in its infancy and — like Second Life before it — should be approached with caution. Unless a clearly-defined group that is relevant to the company can be identified and easily reached through AR technologies, it is best to play a ‘waiting’ game.
9) 3D content is fast becoming popular, with many movies being released in 3D, and first set of 3D TVs being introduced. What are your views on 3D content, will agencies start producing advertisements in 3D?
Absolutely, agencies will begin introducing 3D adverts. Already there have been 3D ‘Playmates of the Month’ in Playboy magazine (so my excited stepson told me), 3D car reviews and specials in Top Gear magazine and there are no doubt many other examples. What will be interesting will be when 3D avatars, à la Second Life, are able to be viewed in the kind of 3D we are becoming used to. When the technology behind avatar movement and interaction becomes as easy to use as 2D social media technologies are now, you will see a rapid convergence and uptake of 3D social media tools and channels.
10) What are your views on the future of social media (is it here for the long term or is it a fad)?
Personally, I give social media as we currently know it another five years before it will be replaced by something even more exciting and pervasive (see my latest vidcast on this: http://www.leehopkins.net/2010/08/06/social-media-is-dead-long-live-whatever-comes-next/). Whether that innovation comes from the Apple labs or the open source space is irrelevant — it will be a technologically-driven initiative that will come out of ‘left field’ and probably involve video in some form or other (even if just a replacement or plug-in for the 3D avatar technologies I mentioned above. Think replacing the face of your avatar with a live video of your own).