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We all know that social media has increased the number of interactions between brands and consumers; more places to publish content, more paid-media options and simply a bigger audience using social networks than ever before. So that must be all positive for businesses, right? Take a step back and consider – is every single one of these “digital interactions” really adding the value it could, or should? Or, is it actually the reverse, and proving detrimental?


For the purposes of this post I’m looking at “digital interaction” in its widest sense: any active engagement (like re-tweeting) or any passive experience (like seeing a paid-for ad in your news feed, or reading a friend’s comment about a brand).

Here are four types of interactions where more, doesn’t necessarily mean better…

1. Brands can publish as much content as they like, to a growing number of social networks/ their own platforms. With such low barriers to publishing, the temptation to produce more and more brand-centric content often trumps understanding what the audience is truly interested in. Every piece of content, which fails to genuinely help, inspire or entertain the audience, is simply more spam in a world where we already see hundreds of messages everyday. With Facebook’s proposed changes to how promotional content is treated (it will get shown less), this is even more important.

2. Coupled with this is the growth of paid-social advertising options – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others following soon. But being able to purchase a guaranteed number of impressions again creates the temptation to create content that starts with the brand, rather than the customer at the centre. As written previously, buying access to someone’s newsfeed doesn’t mean they’ll hang on every word you say. Do paid advertising right, but don’t base success on isolated metrics like video views.

3. Next, customer service. The public nature of a complaint on social media has led to many brands providing a higher level of service here, compared with traditional contact channels. These interactions are often at the point of serious frustration, or when the customer’s planning to walk away altogether. Each one is another input into the complex puzzle that ultimately shapes the customer’s decision to purchase, tell others or simply forget you. So does the service agent’s written tone of voice, empathy with the customer and clarity of response reflect the brand’s values? Are these interactions (often thousands per week for large organisations) benefiting the brand, or are they slowly eroding consumers perception, 140 characters at a time?

4. And finally, what about the impact on an internal function like recruitment? Today’s candidate is using social media to access potential employers through review sites such as Glassdoor. How many organisations are reviewing what people say online about them as an employer and then doing something about it?

Social media interaction isn’t just about an organisation navigating the conversations people have with it, but the conversations that happen about it as well.

From the image used on a social media profile, to the way a service agent signs off a response, every experience (consciously or unconsciously) has an impact on the customer and needs due care and attention.  Have you had a great, or not so great experience with a brand through social media recently? What delighted or disappointed you?

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