Social Media

Does a Brand Become Big Brother when it Monitors Social Media?

Posted by Katharine Panessidi on April 13th, 2009 at 12:00 am

For marketers, social media is about listening and engaging. Communicating with customers on the public web is important for brands, but do they have the right to locate customer to customer conversations and jump right in?

Salesforce.com announced that it will integrate Twitter into a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, which tracks where a brand’s name is mentioned online. Some are enthusiastic, suggesting that the tool will be useful for lead generation. It also has some fearing a Big Brother backlash – customers reacting negatively to brands as Big Brother.

Salesforce’s tool will make it possible for many more companies to join customer to customer conversations. If a greater number of brands jump into their conversations on social media, consumers might be more likely to feel that they are being watched. When advertising via interactive media that is highly personal, like social media and mobile, marketers have to be careful not to deliver too much advertising or risk turning people off. Monitoring conversations and butting in might have the same affect.

Some companies are hearing what is being said about them online and responding with success. Savvy marketers are already using Twitter – via Search.Twitter.com – and they are also scouring blogs for their name. For example in February 2008, Sheraton responded to an unhappy customer blog within a few hours, transforming the unhappy customer (with several thousand followers) into a happy one.

When brands listen, both consumers and brands win – product benefits are recognized and limitations are dealt with. Rob Birgfeld posed the questions best when he asked, at what point do brands cross the line and become seen as Big Brother? Will marketing on social media sites force customers to other platforms? Time will tell, but as monitoring tools become more advanced and integrate with market analysis and CRM systems, brands should pay close attention to what level of interruption is appropriate.

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