Monday, 1 June 2009

Social Media - The Pandora's Box Effect


Pandora was given the gift of curiosity and a box of unknown content, which she was asked not to open. Surprise surprise! She took a peek inside and all sorts of nasty stuff escaped. To her credit she quickly closed the box. There was no malice or intent to release anything bad into the world; the temptation just proved too great for one so curious. What a lot of us don't know is that Pandora's box also contained hope. Something that should not be forgotten.

Why is this relevant? Well, if you read the extensive number of articles and posts about social media for businesses it appears there are two camps emerging, with a middle ground of "no man's land".

On one extreme there are those who are fully involved, using the social web for marketing, customer service and all manner of interactive purposes. They are directly engaging with their customers via the social web. The difficulty of measuring the ROI (which is possible, not easy, but possible) may have delayed them becoming involved originally. However, they didn't wish to miss out and wanted to fully embrace this medium. They have already opened the box and are now immersed in the social web...most probably with differing levels of positive and negative experiences, for both brand and consumer.

At the other end of the scale are those who are consciously keeping well away from the social media bandwagon. They see it as a dangerous communications medium; difficult to manage and control. They do not wish to open themselves up to a direct interaction with the people who want to engage with them. They perceive no tangible ROI i.e. If I put £1 in, what do I get out? The trouble with this is, social media is happening around them regardless; there can be no control of conversation in the social web...people will say what they want to.

Then there are those in the middle who are "curious" and want to evaluate the potential, but unsure of where to start. No man's land is most probably the starting point for everyone, it just takes a little longer to evaluate the pros and cons before deciding which direction to take. The others were here originally, but made their mind up quickly as to which end of the scale they would reside.

The advantage of currently residing in the middle, which relates most to the "early majority" (defined by Geoffrey Moore) is they have seen what resides in Pandora's Box of social media and can learn from the activities of the innovators and early adopters.

This Pandora's Box of Social Media has been opened and it's contents won't go away, but remember it also contains "hope". Those in no man's land and even those who are at the "wouldn't touch it with a barge pole" end of the scale can learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before them as well as the successes of those who have dared and won. There is a word of warning though and that is not to forget the marketing basics; as well as understanding who you are and who the people you wish to engage with are. Understanding the values, motivation and behaviour of everyone will bring provide a solid foundation for success.

Being less analogical, I think the chasm has now been crossed and the social web is now becoming a mainstream engagement/marketing channel. Lessons have been learned, yet there are still no best practices...how can there be? It's people talking online. Is there a best practice for having a conversation in the pub!? At the very least, businesses should be listening to what is being said in their marketplace and about them. A lot can be learned and this information can be used to very good effect.
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