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The inability of companies to embrace social media will be a long recurring theme

Opinion, 03 February 2010

There was an interesting tweet I picked up the other day, courtesy of @propellergroup, highlighting the fact that M&S had failed to or chosen not to use its Twitter channel to communicate an apology following the accidental serving of an alcohol advert for champagne on their new pre-teens site,

Silence is not virtue in our very transparent digital world. And it’s quite a shocker for me that M&S didn’t use their Twitter account – with a not insignificant following of 6100 - as an opportunity to show the human side of the brand beyond the product offers they seem to emit on a regular basis.

Brands that use social media as an extension of their advertising and promotional campaigns are missing a massive trick. Good news tweeting will eventually breed suspicion and lose brands the opportunity to flex their transparency muscles.

The upside for brands embracing social media is that they can present the human side of what they do, warts ‘n all, and as a consequence they’re far more likely to be forgiven for their shortcomings, as long as they constantly demonstrate their desire to listen and to be better at what they do.

M&S is definitely not alone. The inability of most large brands and companies to embrace social media will be a long recurring theme.

I’ve picked out 3 main reasons why…

1) Lack of clarity around the role of social media: to advertise and sell, to listen & to engage in dialogue, to entertain/ provide content/ added value services etc…

2) Lack of clarity as to where the function of running social media sits in or outside the organization: the pr, marketing or sales departments, customer services, the employee(s), the consumer, the agency(ies)…

3) With the stellar growth of information on the individual and their needs comes the pressure to meet those needs intimately. This requires brands to engage daily on a one-to-one level, which in theory means millions of real daily conversations vs. the highest common denominator thinking that marketers are used to.

Comments welcome and follow me @zaidalzaidy

About the author

My marketing career began at Unilever where I spent 8 years working across a variety of personal care brands, the best of which was Lynx where I headed up a series of global communications and innovations projects. I then switched to 'agency side' and joined the chaotically creative world of Mother for 4 years as Strategy Director for 4 years working across Boots, Eurostar, Unilever's Pot Noodle & Coca-Cola's Oasis, Schweppes and Powerade brands. After a year-long stint as Head of International Planning at RKCR/Y&R, I was appointed Managing Partner of Saint Digital in Feb 09.

Tweet: @zaidalzaidy