One of the primary tenets of social media strategy is to listen. The very next is to engage. I’ve followed that path many times: Find a comment on SmartBrief, reach out to the author and begin dialogue — almost always with positive results. As good as it feels to talk one on one with our readers, the question remains: Do I have the right to locate these conversations and jump right in?

Salesforce.com’s announcement that it will release a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for Twitter this summer has some talking “big brother” backlash. But what’s so wrong with allowing companies to hear what is being said about them?

On one hand, when the brand listens, consumers win. A product’s benefits are recognized and its shortcomings are addressed. Such monitoring creates the ultimate, organic focus group. On the other hand, a personal conversation has been mined, gathered and interrupted.

Picture this:

  • ConsumerBob: @WifeofBob Honey, the hemorrhoid ointment you gave me did not work like you promised.
  • WifeofBob: @ConsumerBob I’m sorry Bob, I’ll bring you a different brand this evening.
  • MajorOintmentCompany: @ConsumerBob Sorry your hemorrhoid situation has not improved. Have you tried Extra Strength? Here’s a coupon: tw.it/ointment

Certainly an extreme example, but a feasible one. At what point do brands overstep their boundaries and disturb the natural state of the “social” in social media. The Salesforce.com integration has many suggesting that the “brand tracking” features will become, in fact, a lead generation tool.

Many marketers are salivating at these opportunities to market directly to consumers in exciting new channels. But at what cost? In the eyes of the consumer, this may be a more disturbing form of Spam — one that knows your name and what you’re talking about. Will aggressive marketing on the Facebooks, LinkedIns and Twitters of the world force a mass shift to other platforms? Time will tell, but as monitoring tools become more advanced and integrate with robust market analysis and CRM systems, brands will have to pay close attention to what is appropriate.

With opportunity comes responsibility. The time is now to set boundaries. Respect your audience — and the social spaces they’ve chosen.

Image credit, iStock

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6 Responses to “Engage or enrage: What the new monitoring means”

  1. Barry Hurd says:

    I will play a little devil's advocate here: if someone is Twittering about hemorrhoid ointment, they want people to know.

    The straight push marketing for a coupon may on the cold side of a response, but what if they sent him a direct message or said "if you need expert advice please contact us and we'd be happy to help"

    The question of "jumping into the conversation" is an interesting one. There are a lot of ethical issues each industry will need to address.

    In your example, if I was a specialist/company in hemorrhoid treatment and could help someone with a medical problem I would probably try to reach out (medical cases are a strange example…)

    I think the key here will be if companies actually JOIN the conversation and take an individual and personal interest. Having a keyword trigger send an automated sales pitch is one thing, but reading a thread of comments and helping someone with a problem that you can honestly help them with is another.

    I can only think that someone who has a real problem, who is approached the correct way and helped… will be a happy client/supporter for life.

    It is all in the approach/pitch and personal attention from many angles.

  2. David Pitta says:

    I'm not sure I understand if any 'enrage' is pointed at SFDC. The tools already exist for marketers to monitor their brand in social conversations. Integrating it into a CRM platform is a good opportunity for SFDC to enrich the tool for their customers. However, SFDC is hardly 'opening the door' to this monitoring. Either people are uninformed and enrage is happening or the title of this post may be misleading. There was no link to support any enrage so I'll assume otherwise. But I think it's important to consider the opposite of what you are suggesting – Where's the responsibility for those having social conversation around company brands? Shouldn't those involved in conversation consider implications of how they effect brands? I believe it's the inaccuracies and risk of misleading conversations as a big reason for brands needing to monitor the social web. There may also be an opportunity for lead gen., but in my experience – more time is spent policing inaccurate statements than signing new customers.

  3. Mikhail says:

    This is almost common place now. What happens in 10 years when users have bionic implants. The only private place left will be inside your head.

    Advancements to that are already being made, check it out: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html

  4. Rob Birgfeld says:

    David,
    Barry and David – Both of you make some great points. I agree that today’s monitoring is being used effectively by some– but primarily on listening/customer service and product development/enhancement. And by no means is salesforce.com responsible for a shift, but it does take marketing and sales professionals one step closer to utilizing these channels for lead generation. Right now, we’re happy that brands are listening and innovating– but when they start unabashedly marketing to us via social platforms, the consumer might not be as thrilled to be part of the conversation. Identifying that “line” is going to define the future of marketing in social media. Should be interesting.

  5. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Engage or enrage: What the new monitoring means smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/04/10/engage-or-enrage-what-the-new-monitoring-means – view page – cached One of the primary tenets of social media strategy is to listen. The very next is to engage. I’ve followed that path many times: Find a comment on SmartBrief, reach out to the author and begin dialogue — almost always with positive results. As good as it feels to talk one on one with our readers, the question remains: Do I have the right to locate these conversations and jump right in? — From the page [...]

  6. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Engage or enrage: What the new monitoring means smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/04/10/engage-or-enrage-what-the-new-monitoring-means – view page – cached One of the primary tenets of social media strategy is to listen. The very next is to engage. I’ve followed that path many times: Find a comment on SmartBrief, reach out to the author and begin dialogue — almost always with positive results. As good as it feels to talk one on one with our readers, the question remains: Do I have the right to locate these conversations and jump right in? — From the page [...]

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