Maybe Qualman Has a Point…

Chapters five and seven of Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics further examine the use of social media in marketing, and how social media is truly changing how companies market their products and services. My post from week four, “It’s All About Attitude,” touched on the idea that because of social media, companies lose some degree of control over what online communities say about them; but by actively embracing social media, they can at least interject a positive voice into these online communities. A similar theme stood out to me in this week’s readings. That is, sizable companies are the subject of social media regardless of whether they want to be. Qualman explains,

“Companies that think they control whether they ‘do’ social media or not are terribly mistaken. If you’re a large brand, you can rest assured that there are conversations, pages, and applications constantly being developed around your brand by the community at large. The community is ‘doing’ social media even if you choose not to” (p. 183).

I work for a student loan servicing company (which shall remain nameless) that has shied away from using social media marketing. Qualman’s statement made me wonder what I would find if explored my employer on the Internet. A simple Google search pulls in a link to my employer’s website, a Wikipedia page, and many, many more—10 pages of search results total. After doing some poking around, I read a lot of really negative things about my employer (both as an employer and a provider of student loan services). The negative reviews and comments far outweigh anything positive. I have to say, I was surprised because I’ve always thought of my employer as a generally good company that tries to do right by its employees and customers.

As far as I know, the company has avoided social media to this point because of the nature of their products and services, which seem difficult to tout on social media sites. Are student loans really all that exciting or fun? Not really. Basically, it’s just another bill you have to pay. Additionally, servicing student loans is a complicated business that the consumer doesn’t always readily understand. Many of those who most actively use social media (younger, college-aged people) know next to nothing about repaying their loans.

I can see why it would be daunting to start social media marketing under these circumstances. In fact, I used to agree with the company’s reasoning behind avoiding social media; however, I think I’m now changing my mind. Qualman’s point that “too many companies believe their problems are unique when it comes to the Web” made me feel like this reason might not be a good one anymore (p. 154). After all, there are many financial institutions that do a beautiful job with social media marketing. I understand that it would take a concerted effort as well as dedicated resources for the company to create a social media presence, but couldn’t it only improve upon the dismal Google search results I encountered? After performing my little Google search experiment, I’m a believer in Qualman’s adage that “it’s better to live a social media life making mistakes than living a social media life doing nothing” (p. 187). In the circumstances of my employer, I truly think doing even a minimal amount of social media marketing could help.

Posted on October 21, 2012, in Social Media, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I can see your company’s view of social media marketing, especially given the amount of “spammy,” questionable student loan ads that appear online. If not done in a certain tone, a reputable company can sound like one of the questionable places. People looking for student loan services are often young, but sounding “fun” and youthful isn’t exactly natural for this financial-type of business, but if they come off as too stuffy, they may seem as though they are looking down their nose at potential customers. I suppose this is the case with many industries, but your employer would need to be very mindful of creating a balance between coming across as legitimate while also being approachable, considering its line of business. I suppose Qualman’s opinion that social media marketing is for everyone is true, but the considerations of their industry and customers are what make their approaches unique.

  2. I’m curious if you’re in a position to bring your search findings to the attention of your bosses or if that’s a really bad idea. How would they react? Like everyone else, when I had a couple college loans, I was young and had little idea of the real impact of paying them back (in my case very little real impact because I was reimbursed for my payments through the National Guard). Still, I was afraid to have debt, and passed up a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Japan with a Japanese college friend of mine. I think if someone had reached me with financial counseling/advertising, or stories of the amazing experiences students had because of one more loan, I could have been persuaded to borrow just a little more money.

  3. First of all, great idea to link to one of your earlier blog posts to discuss how your thoughts have evolved over the semester!

    Next, I agree with Laura about the opportunity the company has to make itself less “stuffy.” For instance, you write, “Additionally, servicing student loans is a complicated business that the consumer doesn’t always readily understand.” That to me is a great reason to incorporate social media. Tweeting, for example, with a real person instead of calling a 1-800 number may be more convenient way to explain how to navigate the site and pay off the loans, both for use of every language and the speed with which you can get a reply.

    I had a great experience with the @NikeConnect folks last week when setting up my new fuelband, so that might be why this is on my mind.

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