The ‘Homer’ syndrome…”D’oh”

No, I’m not talking about the ‘brilliant’ TV programme, but instead comparing the persona of one of the characters to express the importance of British firms implementing a social media strategy (basically an all round public relations mix) to sit alongside their other communication platforms – notably its public relations activity.

The reference is made to those companies who are still, even today, yet to understand the importance social media, and indeed, the activity of public relations as a whole, can play in the day-to-day running of a business – any business – any sector!

Over 4,000 UK businesses in a recent Marketing Week survey have stated the importance that social media plays in today’s business environment. The survey also showed that more than two fifths (41%) of UK companies are using social networking sites to win business.

The findings were based on a survey completed by more than 17,000 managers and business owners across 80 countries, including 4,000 from the UK. The main findings of the survey were:

  • Companies are increasingly winning new customers via social networks
  • Businesses in the UK allocate a third of their marketing budgets to social networking campaigns
  • Globally, the number of businesses recruiting new customers via social networks has increased 7%
  • Worldwide, 52% of companies are using social networking to engage with their audiences

So why do some companies still refuse to engage with their customers (business-to-business, business-to-consumer and third-sector) via social media?

Is it the fault of the communications industry to demonstrate its importance? The fault of business leaders not willing to spend time looking at its importance, or, having the time to look into it?

Or, is it the fault of those groups of people – you know the ones, the type that call themselves ‘communications gurus’, who, like most people can populate social media/networks content, but, unlike most, cannot create or implement a social media strategy – yes, there’s a difference. Yes, populating social media platforms on behalf of an organisation is an art form, but the real art to social media/networks is creating, coordinating, managing and protecting a social media/network strategy, which either a third-party, or in-house teams can adopt and follow both in the short and long-term.

Let me give you a perfect example of the ‘Homer’ syndrome: I was recently invited to attend a meeting to present why social media channels were important to this particular third-sector organisation. It’s worth noting the powers that be in this organisation had already agreed to implement a social media campaign, but they wanted the senior management staff to buy into it also.

I could tell from the moment I entered the room that the managers and heads of departments sat around the table had been told to be there.

Anyway towards the end of the presentation, after showing them facts and figures relevant to their industry sector and explaining what is being done, why it is being done and what is expected to be achieved, a voice, from the corner of the room stated: “All this arty farty communications stuff is all well and good, but we live in the real world, dealing with real people – how the hell can this social media stuff help?” At this point other people who were also sat around the table started nodding in agreement.

At this point I made a bet with everyone in the room; which was, if I can prove my point the person who made the comment had to help out with the next internal social media training programme. He laughed, looked at me and then started to play with his smart phone – the irony!

I looked around the room and said: “Tomorrow morning I would like each of you to get on the train from York to Leeds and simply look around the train. I bet each of you will see more passengers on their smart phones reading the news, gossiping on Facebook, tweeting or even sharing pictures on Instagram, than you would see people physically holding and reading a newspaper or magazine.”

At this point, most of the people around the table started to nod with smirks on their faces. I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but simply explain, in a way everyone in the room would understand, that social media, whether they liked it or not, is and will remain an important communications channel for every organisation – no matter what product or service the organisation offers, or which sector it serves.

In fact, it’s fair to say those organisations that refuse to acknowledge the power of social media operates a business strategy built completely on luck! Just like those who don’t take advantage of the tricks provided by public relations activity…d’oh!

I’ve got to go back next week to explain why we are also implementing an online and offline media relations programme and a series of audience engagement programmes. But then, that’s another blog!

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