Social Media Marketing: Twitter Through the Tough Times

November 19, 2008

(For the faithful, this isn't solely about Twitter, which we've covered here and here. This is more of a focused continuation of our previous discussion about marketing during an economic downturn.)

As marketers, we tend to stand on the outside, looking in. Specifically, we're at a distance from a group of customers or potential markets, and our primary objective is to help our clients learn how to reach that group. It's a perfectly legitimate form of stalking.

Let's turn the tables and stop being so selfish. Just for kicks, let's look at the recent economic brouhaha from the consumer point of view. With one piece of bad news coming on the heels of another, the groundswell of worry is understandable. The result? People are cutting back (yes, even the wealthy), reducing consumption and assuming more conservative budgets.

That doesn't mean they're doing it silently, however. Instead of quietly raiding the kids' piggy banks, they're loudly and proudly going online to discover products, options, and prices they can stomach. Consumers are asking social media tools to help guide them through the economic abyss. The question is, what are you doing to answer them?

Silence is not golden, especially when the market is down

When your phone rings, someone probably answers it. If someone queries you by blog, forum, Twitter, email, or other online medium, you should answer them as well. Given the viral nature of online communications, this is extremely important. (If you disagree, talk to the marketing folks at Motrin; it took Twitter users all of about 48 hours to blacken their latest campaign.)

When economic conditions sour, consumers expect organizations to work even harder to retain business. They know you can't afford to lose them. So, get online. Establish a presence on Twitter, Facebook, even (gasp) MySpace—wherever your markets are. Listen, then talk back.

If you don't talk to your markets, your competitors will

If you're reading this, it's entirely possible your competitors are already ahead of you. Brand loyalty being even more questionable during tough economic times, you're going to have to play catch-up. Even if you see little business purpose in heavy social media involvement, you should, at least, consider why the competition does.

I sympathize with organizations who balk at the time and energy needed for this undertaking. The positives, after all, may be elusive. On the other hand, the negatives of not responding or, even worse, behaving irresponsibly, online will hit you like a ton of bricks. Just ask Sony or Wal-Mart.

Ok, I'll admit: This post has, by and large, focused on the negative. However, if recent economic developments are indicators, we all might want to get prepared for a general wilting in everyone's rosy disposition.

Consumers will be quick to roast an organization they believe isn't responding adequately to their needs or concerns. Conversely, they'll stay loyal to a firm that was willing to answer their questions and speak to them one-on-one during the darkest of times.