While there are some traditional brands that have leapt into social media with success – Ford comes to mind – there are many others that don’t see the benefit. Or perhaps it’s more than likely that they view social media as beneath them or not a viable medium for their brand message.

Well check out these statistics…

  • 51% of people use social media
  • 51% of social media users have posted original content somewhere in the social sphere
  • 73% of people have posted a product review
  • 97% have searched for a brand online
  • 66% of social media users have ‘friended’ or ‘followed’ a brand
  • 65% of social media users have had their mind changed about a brand perception
  • 97% say that social media has influenced a purchasing decision

Brands need to profile existing customers and learn what social media channels they prefer. They then need to listen and watch how their customers and prospects interact and use social media. There are tons of social media monitoring tools available today and they can help companies uncover brand trends, listen to conversations, and see what people are saying about them, their customers, and advocates.

Brands can then take part in these conversations, while developing a base of ‘fans’ or ‘followers.’ With transparency and an appropriate persona, brands can create and nurture perceptions while overcoming negativity. They can educate their prospects and customers and influence decisions.

Social media is not, however, a new outlet for general advertising or making sales pitches. Brands that don’t understand this will suffer damage to their image and unleash a backlash that could have detrimental consequences. One example of this that comes to mind is T.G.I. Friday’s Woody Facebook promotion.

Friday’s created a fictional character named Woody on Facebook. Supported with a TV ad campaign (notice I said supported) Woody was seeking fans. When he hit 500,000 fans, each fan would receive a coupon for a free burger at Friday’s. Woody soon had 1 million fans and was making appearances at restaurant locations throughout the U.S. Fans would post pictures of them at restaurants – with Woody or without. I thought it was very clever, and with 1 million fans to market (cleverly) to, Friday’s was quickly realizing social media success.

Until that is, they decided to have Woody go back to his girlfriend as a way to end the campaign. END the campaign? The negative backlash on Woody’s Facebook page was instantaneous and massive. Why end the campaign entirely? Couldn’t they change it a little?

Embracing social media, and respecting its power along the way, will open huge opportunities for any brand looking to get closer to its customers and prospects – something traditional media just can’t offer.