U.K.'s fastest-growing technology companies failing to engage customers via social media, study says.
A significant development that could significantly help lift organizations' profile is the move by Google to provide author rankings in addition to company rankings in its search results. "This will provide an opportunity for individuals to be singled out as experts," Whatmough said. "We expect this to be a major focus in 2013 as companies try to strengthen their perceived credentials in particular areas."
Businesses need to beware of using social media to indiscriminately push out one-way broadcasts, however, he warned. "Too many companies are still using these channels to issue their latest press release or company updates," he said. "If that's your focus you will never benefit from the unique community aspect of social media. If you fail to put out valuable content in context, or to engage with your target audience, you shouldn't be surprised if you're not getting the followers or comments you expected."
Even blogs are too one-way, said Whatmough. "A better way to engage people is to harness Twitter, LinkedIn and increasingly Google+ to share content and start a dialogue directly within a community," he said.
Meeting customers' expectations is important, too, Whatmough saod. That means monitoring social media for mentions of the company and having mechanisms in place to address customer complaints, suggestions and other comments promptly. "Tracking social media for mentions of your company is absolutely crucial," he said. "Reputation is much harder to manage now that everything is online. It only takes one negative tweet from someone influential and a business could find itself in a lot of trouble. Everything moves so fast in the social space that a real-time response is vital. Customers expect this -- if they post a grumble and the company doesn't pick up on it, their experience immediately becomes worse."
Company-wide ownership of social media is essential then. "Social media cannot be treated as a silo," Whatmough said. "It must be tightly integrated right across the business, from marketing, PR and communications through to customer service and IT. No single discipline can own it, but everyone needs input into it."
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