Stuck in the Social Media Vaccuum?

Social media is all the buzz these days. Media outlets, marketers, TV and business magazines (including this one) tout the power of social media to reach the public, shape opinion and even change how we do business. And it's true, social media has changed the way we operate as businesses and how we interact with consumers. Perhaps even more important is how consumers now interact with us. But are we giving too much weight to a crowd of social media users who represent a relatively small portion of the overall population?


Ad Age has posted an article with some very interesting views. One of the more significant findings is the result of a survey from Lightspeed Research. Last fall, Johnson & Johnson came under fire from women in the Twitterverse about a Motrin ad. The result was that the ad was pulled, and they issued an apology on their website. All from Twitter. But an ensuing survey found that:


  • Nearly 90% of women had never even seen the ad.
  • Once they did, 45% liked the video
  • 41% had no feelings about it
  • 15% didn't like it
  • 8% said it negatively affected their feelings toward the brand
  • 32% said it made them like the brand more.

These numbers show just 23% of tested viewers didn't like the ad, yet Johnson & Johnson shut it down and apologized for it. This presents a unique problem for marketers. While it's important to listen to your audience, it might be even more important to remember who exactly that audience is. And if you do run afoul of a particular audience, it might be a better idea to react within that space, instead of with one sweeping motion.


The real problem is that with today's consumers more empowered than ever, even a few disgruntled Twitterers, Facebook users or Diggers can make big waves and big problems for your brand. So how do you address these problems when they come up? The only real solution is diligent reputation management, to have a presence on these networks. But let's not forget that these social media sites, while large and influential, do not represent the majority of our audience. In fact, it's a fraction of who we are usually trying to reach. These networks should not be ignored in any way, but they shouldn't dictate how we do business either.