eMarketing reflections

Jeroen Hoekman

The big problem of social media
December 7th, 2009

I remember how my grandmother told me that her doctor had said something about her health and thus this was the hard truth. No matter how much I argued that she should get a second opinion, she would not change her mind. For her doctors were higher beings and you just did not question them. That was not done. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think doctors are evil or doing things wrong. I actually owe a lot to their profession, but I think it is healthy to get a second opinion and to keep an open mind.

The arrival of Internet has brought a healthy reaction to this situation, and not only considering health care professionals, but to all professions and trends. With Internet more knowledge became accessible to anybody looking for it and it became much easier to get informed about any subject and it empowered us to discuss things like our health with specialists. For example, the websites where people write down their experiences with hotels they visited are excellent when you are planning your holiday and can save you from having the same bad experience somebody else had before you.

The social media trend on Internet though, is taking it way too much out of context. Now it is possible for anyone to give his or her opinion about any subject, or to comment on anything published online. This would not matter that much, if readers would look at several sources and come to a sound conclusion based on the available material. However, nowadays people have a higher regard for their peers´ opinion than those of official or scientific sources. This leads to the creation of a lot of urban legends and conspiracy theories. For companies it means that nobody is interested in their online message anymore and any message will be accepted with great distrust.

This means that as a marketing manager you will come across a lot of messages and comments about your product in social media sites. Luckily a lot of them will still be positive, as long as you have a good product, but there will be a lot of trash out there and people reading those messages will believe them, no matter what you say on your company website. Most people won’t visit company websites anymore, as they expect them to be full of lies anyway.

So, how do we counteract this trend? The best way is like I have said in this blog before, that you have to listen to your (potential) customers. Make sure you know what is in their mind and react to that instead of blindly shouting your marketing message into the world. With this half your work has been done. If you understand your customers and their concerns, then you can decide on a strategy that will deal with these concerns and will positively counteract against all the speculative trash that is out there. Soon I will write more about this subject with some examples of strategies.


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