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Getting Close to Consumers

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: January 20, 2011, from the January 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Two years ago, few companies were investing in social media, but, during the course of 2010, there were clearly huge changes in attitude and approaches to bloggers, FaceBook, Twitter and other social networking platforms. “Big global companies are trying to adjust, and we are seeing a willingness to change, which wasn’t present before,” says Sean Singleton, managing director of digital creative company Skive.

Early in 2010, Singleton noted a change in attitude after running a session for a group of public relations professionals at L’Oréal, to which a number of key beauty bloggers were invited. By the end of the day, nine of the PR professionals were on Twitter following the key bloggers. “There is still a lot to do in terms of commitment of budgets, but at least the industry is recognizing the opportunity there,” says Singleton.

Companies have been slow in adopting a social media strategy for several reasons. Mostly, many lack an understanding about what it can do for their brands, but fear also plays a strong role. Those unfamiliar with blogs and Twitter may be fearful of negative criticism and how to deal with it, so they ignore it rather than become involved.

Singleton cites the example of Dell Computers, which used to have a reputation for unreliable products and a lack of communication with its customers. Things came to a head when an online video of one of its laptops catching fire went global, earning the company the moniker “Dell Hell.”

Already under fire for its strategy for cutting costs at its call centers, Dell reacted to this ultimate in negative publicity by investing in a social media program. “Dell embraced the criticism and turned it to its advantage by using social media,” says Singleton, who believes that beauty brands have a lot to learn from this example. “Beauty brands like to control their message and to be visually strong.”