3 Reasons Big Brands are Wary of SMM

This post is the second in a three part series and follows yesterday’s post on 4 Reasons Many Big Brands Downplay SEO.


In my opinion there is no better time, nor ever has there been a greater arena, for harnessing the consumer impulse associated with brand identity, than through the new web, the social web, the viral voice of the consumer in real time.


Research* indicates that embracing both external and internal SMM provides significant benefits.


Benefits associated with employing external-facing social media technologies:


  • 68% cite increased customer engagement
  • 64% cite increased brand awareness and loyalty
  • 58% cite effective market research

 Some benefits of embracing internal-facing social-media technologies include:


  • 91% cite improved communication and collaboration
  • 81% cite an increased ability to effectively locate and engage in-house experts
  • 78% cite an improvement in knowledge management

 More than 74% of companies with less than 500 employees embrace Web2.0. 96% of these report that all Web2.0 marketing efforts have been successful. The most used, and the most successful uses of Web2.0 technologies, can be attributed in order to the use of blogs, communities and wikis. And yet around 50% of all enterprise sized businesses remain unconvinced. The question that begs answering is why.


While there are numerous concerns raised by brands about the return, efficacy, ROI and other aspects of SMM, the top excuses or points of reluctance center around the following 3 issues:


  1. Lack of Control
  2. Brand Integrity Concerns
  3. Legal and branding issues


1. Lack of Control


The fear of not controlling public content associated with a big brand name is enough to instigate a flight or fright reaction in many big brand web owners.


Lack of exposure to the social web, and education about it, means that these big brands are either not aware of the fact that people will blog about them or review them regardless, or they really don’t think that unofficial content is likely to harm their online reputation.


There are a few things they should know**. Here are 8 of many:


  1. When asked what sources of information they are “very likely” to consult before making a decision about their entertainment options, 62% named Web sites with user reviews as their top choice, even beating out a knowledgeable friend (59%). (Marketing Sherpa, July 2007)
  2. Review users noted that reviews generated by fellow consumers had a greater influence than those generated by professionals. (comScore/The Kelsey Group, October 2007)
  3. 64% of consumers reported wanting to see user ratings and reviews, based on a study of 5,000 online shoppers. (Forrester, 2008)
  4. More than eight in 10 (82%) of those who read reviews said that their purchasing decisions have been directly influenced by those reviews. (Deloitte & Touche)
  5. 59% of their users considered customer reviews to be more valuable than expert reviews. (Bizrate)
  6. 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. (Major consumer electronics retailer/iPerceptions study)
  7. When asked to note their most trusted information source, 60% of Canadian online buyers said consumer reviews compared to 31% who said newspapers or magazines.
    (J.C. Williams Group)
  8. 84% of consumers earning more than $150,000 annually visit sites where customers review and rate products and services including restaurants. (The Luxury Institute)

Many of the brands fear that the content will be negative. This is not true. Among the 46% of respondents who had posted or planned to post reviews about their online shopping experience, 88% said those reviews either were, or would be positive. (Nielson, 2007)**


The point is that people are going to blog and write reviews regardless of whether the brands enable or empower their customers to do so on the official branded website. And there is the fact that if they do write a review, it is likely to be positive. Most negative posts or reviews are cathartic for the consumer who has often had a very bad or even traumatic experience. It is far more pleasurable for consumers to express their appreciation of a brand, product, service or experience. There is also the trend towards positive that can dissuade possible negative reviewers from ultimately posting their feedback in an open forum.


The optimal way a brand can approach the world of bloggers and reviewers is to enable and encourage online reviews, and empower brand evangelists.


  • By enabling reviews it is easier for brands to effectively deal with detractors in a timely manner, and to manage their reputations more directly on an official, interested basis.
  • By empowering brand evangelists with widgets, games, podcasts, support & incentives, the ‘inside scoop’ and a host of other tools, the brand cements the relationship with these bloggers and firmly establishes powerful allies in the online space.  This is also immensely positive due to the fact that bloggers tend to be transparent, and transparency is vital.


2. Brand Integrity Concerns


Many brands are so mired in the requirements imposed by legal and marketing to only have their brand referred to and presented in a certain way online that the thought of enabling every day people to promote their brand is simply not a thought to be even vaguely entertained.


Cindy Krum of Blue Moon Works opened her SMX Advanced presentation in 2007 with a fantastic quote. She said this:


“Ubiquitous adoption of web technologies means customers will demand a higher level of interaction with brands, online.”


It is not impossible to present and promote a big brand via a social profile. Simply structure and present the social profile via a supporting sub-brand specifically created to cater to the needs, wants and online activities of the members of your target market; those who are active in the realm of online social media. Target these users, meet their news, gratify them, empower them, answer them, engage them. By doing so you enable and encourage them to eagerly assist you in the creation of your positive SMM sub-brand.


3. Legal and Branding Issues


The number of times informative onpage copy, or a positive link-bait press release, or some other bit of potential publicly available online copy has been rejected by a legal department cannot be overestimated.


A brand’s online market is exactly that; a market place, not a law room. Lighten up on the legalese on-page and provide linked T&C or other legally relevant information on robots.txt excluded pages as required.


The ideal scenario occurs when there is an effective marrying of the official legal based blog to a less official promotional blog; simply create the aforementioned sub brand, headed by a real go-to recognizable persona. Offer up-to-date newsworthy or simply interesting insights, and provide considerate and considered feedback to all comments.




SMM is growing daily in importance to the established web community. It is also becoming more and more important to newer users as they themselves gain confidence and respect for the social web as a place to find insights, information and feedback on products and service of interest.


SMM is no longer an early adopter’s tool. It is a medium that needs to be embraced by all companies with an online presence, especially those with a big brand that requires protection and online reputation management.


If you would like to find out more about online reputation management, I highly recommend Andy Beal’s new book, Radically Transparent.


The last post in this three part series will look at why many big brands eschew Paid Search.



* AwarenessNetworks

** BazarreVoice



You can contact Laura at semcanada dot org

Or follow her on Twitter


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