How should companies weigh up and balance their use of social media in an increasing digital world? On this blog, social media and trends in mobile usage are frequently discussed: Paul Johnston stated it is critical to consider a mobile channel strategy. Next, Jo Lewis argues that social media as a commerce channel is emerging. And let’s not forget that enterprises increasingly look to build trust and loyalty by replicating elements of human interactions through social media, as Ben Gilchrist posted earlier.

In my opinion companies can find a balance in their customer interaction strategy as they surge to adopt social media in an ever increasing digital world through being aware, being fair, and taking care.

Social media is here to stay

It is clear to me that social media is here to stay. The success of it is not that strange really: people have made it through evolution by living in groups. We still feel better with other people around. What I see is that the digitalisation of the current world first brought alienation: people spent time behind their computers instead of interacting with others.
With the creation and adoption of social media, we have moved from an information seeking society to a more collaborative one that still seeks information but in different ways and perhaps crucially, is keen to share it.
Social media is a success because by its very nature it combines the best of both worlds: a tool to interact with others, and a place to share your life experiences.. Technology enables us to do so in a quick and easy way across time zones. I personally have more contact with a friend living in South Africa through Facebook, than one living at 2 miles from me in The Netherlands.

I do not believe that social media is for everyone

The mass adoption of social media is incredible. Facebook grew to 500 million users (8% of the world population) in 7 years. Twitter grew to over 200 million users within 5 years, adding 500,000 users each and every day.
The adoption of new devices like smart phones serves as a great indicator in observing how well the digital world is entering everyday life. Sales of new smart phones overtake feature phones in 2011, however only 1-2% of people aged 65 and older are using smart phones today.
In the same article it is state that seniors are smart shoppers who aren’t so much interested in [the] useless ‘bells and whistles’ many products contain.

What I wonder: where does it stop? Is there limit in adoption and use of these tools? And is there a need to limit companies’ digitalisation in order to stay in touch with their customers?

How companies could find a balance

In short one could state social media are a tool to help fill a gap in a digitalised world that truly meets a deep, primal emotion.

What we should not forget however, is that 92% of the world is NOT on Facebook. Companies need to find a balance in their customer interaction strategy. Where do you draw the line and how do you embrace this digital world?

  • Be aware: Let’s not forget about the non-digital people in this world. Start investigating how your target market is behaving socially. Age and location may help, but also consider the type of business you are in. For example consumer electronics are discussed and compared online more often than lawn mowers.
  • Be fair: Understand that your customers, tweeting and liking as they do, interact in their own private social environment. Companies that interact with customers through social media, step into their customers’ private life. Consider what makes them want to connect with you and your brand.
  • Take care: Give careful consideration to how you adopt social media as part of your customer interaction strategy. Let’s not forget about the non-digital people in this world.

I believe companies can use social media to engage customers with their brand, enhance the overall customer experience and add value, in a transactional or emotional way. However a well considered customer interaction strategy will extend beyond the social media bonanza and will include how to engage their offline customer base.

Do you believe companies are getting the balance right?