Monday, September 7, 2009

Social Networking Targets Target (and more!)

Are my headlines witty or what, people?

Anyway, at least one of my professors forced us to apply the usefulness of social networking in the business world. Sure Twitter is growing in size and popularity, but how can we, as practitioners, use that to our client's benefit? Personally, I think a sweet MySpace background and Twittering about when my client brushes his/her teeth and eats a tuna sandwich will do the trick. You could try this too.


So the chatter is:

Target consumers are much more likely to speak about their shopping experience, according to online buzz monitor Crimson Hexagon, while chatter about Walmart often veered into discussion of the social implications of the retailing giant when it comes to labor practices and local retailers. It examined online chatter on blogs, Twitter, social networks and message boards for a one-month period beginning in mid-July.

Crimson Hexagon performed the analysis on following word that Target plans to up its marketing budget in order to convince consumers it is not just about stylishness, but also value.

This is a creepy fantastic example of how companies read what's on your Twitter/Facebook/MySpace and actually use and respond to it. If I was John Q. Target I'd say, "Rad job topping Wal-Mart in chatter, people. Let's step it up a notch, mmkay? Let's show them we're stylish and affordable. Good hustle!"

Really, though, this is not the job of advertising or marketing, this is straight up PR and a clear example of why it's so beneficial to a company. What if the chatter* was focused on something completely different? Why launch a marketing campaign based on low prices (although usually not a bad idea) when 75% of people are buzzing* about something else? It's potentially wasted effort, time, and money to campaign on a good idea if there's research available that funnels feedback from consumers to the company.

Puglic Relations?**

Moreover, emphasizing the social networking utility, Crimson Hexagon (as far as the article states) did not search Target's site for customer feedback, but sought out social networks like Twitter and blogs. This is how and why social media is important in a business setting. In the social network sphere, users write what they want and set their own parameters. While unreliability looms about, it's almost like a mega focus group providing answers to questions you never even thought to ask. With the added bonus of being able to search for key terms, the networking sites make it all too easy to figure out who's twittering or blogging about what, where, and when.

Here's a down side (yes, Virginia, there is a down side). In the social network sphere, users write what they want and set their own parameters. Get it? I wrote it before as a positive and now it's a negative. Ah, I slay me. This means people can regurgitate what they've already heard/read or write something to be facetious/silly/cool/(insert other adjective here). It's a one-sided arrangement that withholds the user's tone and fails to reveal if the chatter is based on genuine or fleeting feelings.

Clearly all decisions do not hinge on the result of social network findings. However, I see the increasing benefits for companies using them. I'm personally pro-social networking (for both social and business uses), but I think we need to take results with a grain of salt. While deemed "social" networking, the medium is anything but. At best, at least now, I see it as a rough guide or a step in the right direction, but companies can't discount the value of actual human interaction for results.

Humans and computers unite!

* I hate these jargony words and think they should never be used. Still, until they are, I'll use them. Grudgingly.
** Gratuitous pug picture. Deal with it.