How NOT to Go Viral in Security
a&s International | Date:
YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook — there are only so many social media accounts a company can handle and maintain. The online services chosen reflect the company's target audience. Adding a business contact on LinkedIn is far more palatable than “friending” a potential customer on Facebook, only for them to find one's drunken weekend exploits. Professional networking sites tend to be more focused and, therefore, provide a better chance of reaching a desired audience. “Generally, LinkedIn members are mature individuals who have numerous years of industry experience under their belt,” said Joshua Kwai, CEO and President of JK Consultancy. “About 60 percent of them assume managerial roles, and more than 20 percent of them are entrepreneurs like me. Perhaps, only 20 percent of the members tend to be young. Overall, approximately 80 percent are decision makers.”
Developing an online presence helps build a brand, especially with manufacturers that want to further strengthen their brand recognition. “Social media is part of our brand personality,” said Amanda Sung, Public Relations Specialist at Vivotek. “For a business, its presence among social media networks does not necessarily translate into dollar signs. However, it's an excellent way to let people know more about us on a personal level.”
The social media audience is becoming more diverse. “It's true that many of the decision makers are not on what you would define as typical social media — yet,” said Lena Heden, Public Relations Manager, Axis Communications. “A 2011 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that while in 2008 only 9 percent of 50- to 65-yearolds used social media, this number had increased to 20 percent by 2010.”
Axis's target audience includes influencers in the security business, opinion makers, journalists, analysts, existing and potential customers and partners, Heden said. However, LinkedIn narrows the field. “The statistics for our LinkedIn retail surveillance group show that we have more than 33 percent senior- or director-level members, as well as 8 percent C-level members.”
The Web means anyone and everyone can find your content. “Any one of our websites can usually fulfill the information requirement of an individual or organization that is looking to recommend, implement or upgrade a video surveillance system,” said Aleksey Berezin, Online Marketing Manager, Arecont Vision.
Social Media Benefits
Instantaneous communication is a key advantage of social media over traditional media. “The most important categories are customer engagement, brand awareness/ranking and sales,” Berezin said. “The ability to communicate live with an Arecont employee can make the difference between gaining a sale and having it go to the competition. Key words and phrases can help drive customers to our sites with minimal expense and maximum potential.”
Targeted communication also yields more productive conversations. “Social media allows us to directly engage with our audience,” Heden said. “We get fast responses, and we can get them directly from our user base.” Social media is more flexible and versatile. “You can do 3-D media and hyperlinks,” Sung said. “But you don't know who might comment on your item.”
Instant reach means information reaches readers rapidly through the Internet. “Information pertaining to my company can be read anytime, anywhere and by anyone throughout the world,” Kwai said. “This is something that traditional media cannot achieve.”
Not everything is rosy on the social media landscape, though. One disgruntled customer can air his or her grievances to the world online, whether the criticism is fair or not. “I pay close attention to any negative feedback,” Berezin said. “When applicable, this information is forwarded t o sales support , technical support, engineering or other related departments for their action . If possible, I also try to connect with the writers to let them know their concerns or problems have been elevated to the right people in our company.”
Image quality is one of the biggest gripes, with bad video causing virulent outbursts. “It's harder to do damage control with viral content,” Sung said. “The only extent damage can be controlled is to distract people with something ‘shinier.' With online conversations and dialogs, it comes and goes quickly.”
Overall, social media has no major drawbacks. “As long as you are honest and address feedback received, I think social media is a great platform of engagement with your audience,” Heden said. “We welcome both positive and negative feedback. What we learn through social media is fed back into the organization.”
Negative feedback can result in positive improvements, which benefit everyone. “I don't see negative online feedback as negative in nature,” Kwai said. “If this feedback is genuine, one should be thankful that someone out there actually cares and bothers to provide feedback to the company to improve its services or operations.”
Social media is in its infancy, with limited uptake in physical security. “We see the move to social media as a process, and the security industry still has a long way to come up the curve on fully utilizing these new engagement platforms both from a vendor and a customer perspective,” Heden said. “If it's done right, social media can enrich the vendor-customer relationship and provide fruitful feedback to our organization.”
From Good to Great
The effort to establish an online presence pays off when virtual feedback is translated into change. For Axis, it looks at online conversations from a more regional perspective, as its international footprint encompasses offices in more than 20 countries. “We want to look at online buzz more granularly and see how this can feed back into regional teams to improve products, customer services as well as provide valuable insights to our sales departments,” Heden said.
More vendors will pay close attention to what customers are saying online. “Social media has provided customers with the ability to influence others to a much greater extent than was ever possible,” Berezin said. “This transparency demands that site comments, likes and blogs be viewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that healthy relationships are built, and brand imaging is favorably maintained.”
Going viral is the best buzz a vendor can get. “At the beginning of the year, Bloomberg wrote about our 60-percent sales growth, and several LinkedIn groups started talking about it,” Sung said. “People asked why we made more than our competitors; then others mentioned we have strong R&D. It gets the conversation going naturally.”
Social media can transform a brand's reputation. “It makes people see you as a celebrity,” Sung added. “It's a way to package a brand.”
Mobile devices and QR codes are blurring the line between the virtual and physical worlds. As the flow of information streams fast and furious, no one can turn back the tide of social media. No matter how a company positions itself, it has to consider social media. While online flames are difficult to control, there is no question that instantaneous communication increases dialog and speeds up the feedback cycle.