Rhetoric of Technology and Social Media – Don’t Miss the Boat!

Although “rhetoric of technology” is considered a newer term and area of study, it has taken the world by storm via social media and has become a powerful marketing tool (Clark, 2010, p. 89). I would dare say this term is synonymous with Qualman’s (2009) terms of “socialommerce” (p. 89) or “world of mouth marketing” (p. 99).

To support the rhetoric of technology, we read several examples this week on how technology and social media have influenced consumer opinions and decisions. Some companies jumped on the bandwagon:

ESPN Fantasy Football Today

TripAdvisor Cities I’ve Visited

And some missed the boat:

NBC coverage of 2008 Olympics

Coca-Cola venture into Second Life

Ultimately, I think we can group the ways that social media influences consumers into three categories:

1)      Recommendations from strangers. For example, let’s say I’m in the market to buy a tablet. I own a Samsung smartphone which I like very much, so I’d like to see what tablets Samsung might offer. Instead of going to Samsung’s corporate website (which is going to be obviously biased), I decide to look for reviews online. Sites like angieslist.com require payment to read reviews, so I go to Facebook and find a fan page for Samsung’s Note. However, it’s a “fan” page, so most of the comments are probably skewed. I need to know if there are any issues with this product so I can weigh the pros and cons. So, then I look for…

2)      Corporate social media sites. I go directly to Samsung’s Facebook page to see what regular consumers, not necessarily fans, say about Samsung products. Of course, this could also be edited to only reflect positive comments, so I move on to a more trusted source…

3)      Referrals from friends and family. I see that several of my Facebook fans mentioned buying a Samsung Note recently, so I send them a message to see what they think.

Samsung Note fan page

Samsung Note Fan Page
Rott, L. (2013). Snipped from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Samsung-Galaxy-Note3/660984673914124

These readings have caused me to reflect on the company I work for and our use of social media. Sure, we have a Facebook page, LinkedIn page and Twitter handle, but it doesn’t feel like we’re creating a sense of community. Our Facebook page has only three “likes” and they are all employees of the company. We have not heavily promoted these sites and rarely post to them. It seems that our social media boat is half sunk! How do we drive more traffic to these sites and who do we target?

One of our primary audiences that we market to is physicians. I have the exact worry that Qualman describes at the end of chapter seven: “They don’t want to aggregate their hard-earned customers in a public forum because they’re afraid the competition will come in and pick them off” (p. 184). Qualman insists that if a company is worried about this, then there are bigger problems within the company. I disagree. Our company offers a solid product and even better service (yes, I may be a little biased, but let’s put that aside, shall we?). Despite this, our competition is offering what you would call “it’s too good to be true” sort of product and service, bordering on the edge of illegal (at the least, unethical), but because our type of service is still so NEW, many physicians do not realize this. On top of this, we have actually had competitors cull our website for clients as we used to list them for patients (“Find a Physician”). I don’t believe we actually lost any clients this way, but it makes you more careful as to what you put out on the web. We changed our site so now you have to submit a request to get a list of doctors in your area that provide this specialized therapy.

Revised Find a Physician page Rott, L. (2013). Snipped from employer's website.

Revised Find a Physician page
Rott, L. (2013). Snipped from employer’s website.


So, what are our options to keep our social marketing plan afloat? Perhaps the mainstream sites will not work for our customers. However, I think we could create an online community through a secure site that we already use with our clients – our customer “portal” where they can log in, access patient educational materials, marketing tools, clinical resources, a calendar of events, etc. We have an area where people can submit and view clinical Q&A. This is mainly a one-to-one communication where they submit questions to us and we respond directly to them. If appropriate, we might post the question and answer for all to see, but not show who submitted it. What if we turned it into an open forum where our clients could talk to each other? I think this would encourage our clients to use the site more and also create a greater sense of loyalty, brand and “family.”

We are supposed to have a meeting soon to discuss upgrades to our portal site…perhaps I will bring this up!

Posted on October 20, 2013, in Social Media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. evelynmartens13

    Hi Lori:

    Great post, as always! You’ve made me think very hard in two ways this evening:

    1. First, I’m helping to care for someone in my family who is probably going to need a site like yours, and it’s made think “outside the box” (isn’t it funny that that’s such a cliche?) about how to find help

    2. It’s really made this very practical for me in terms of my own work and what drove me to this program. We have FB and are thinking about Twitter, texting, etc, but it all still seems a bit vague and amorphous at this point.

    I keep thinking in terms of “goal setting” (let’s set some goals!), but I really need to think a bit deeper about what I’m hoping to gain for our organization. More users? (yes, but we’re already overbooked, so that’s probably not really what I’m after). I’m thinking about “branding,” referrals, testimonials, organizational values, etc.

    So, thanks for all the good fodder for thought!

    • Hi Evelyn-

      Glad I could stimulate some brain cells!

      I have to apply these readings and theories to something practical at work in order for it to make sense. I feel like I have been getting a much better handle on this social media stuff because of this class and figuring out some appropriate ways to use it practically. For instance, I was doing some research on a client yesterday before I called him to check in and I saw how active he was on Facebook and that his posts had a specific theme to them, so I emailed him and asked him about it. I had an email back from him in five minutes! This is pretty amazing considering he’s a doctor! We had some back-and-forth emails about his interests and then he says to me that my contacting him reminded him that he needed to place an order with our pharmacy. Although our communication was not via social media, it was his social media communications that laid the foundation for us to have a meaningful conversation that resulted in business for my company.

      Good stuff!

  2. I think the question you ask “how do we drive more traffic to these sites and who do we target?” is one that most companies ask. Companies hire companies that have a specific goal to increase social media traffic. If it was an easy question to answer, these companies wouldn’t

    I see your point that in your line of work it’s difficult. People don’t always want certain information to be publicly displayed. I think the “submit a request” form is a good one because people that are genuinely interested will fill out a request form. There have been things I’ve been researching for no real specific reason, I guess just to curb curiosity, and when I see I have to sign up for information I won’t do it. But I wasn’t really interested in the first place, so why would a company want to waste their time talking to me?

    It’s an interesting question on how to keep your social marketing plan afloat. Companies that have no social presence online seem shady and can aggravate people. An example is if I’m online shopping for something and the store website doesn’t have a store attached to it. I look at that as a waste of my time. If I wanted to go to the store, I would have, I wouldn’t have bothered going to your website! With that said, I guess that means you have to have something of value, which might be that customer portal. I don’t think having a guarded area, especially because some of the content will be sensitive, will prevent the people from visiting your site. Maybe what’s in your best interest is to create both a private portal for people to feel secure and an open forum for people to talk to each other.

    • At first, it seemed shady not to have a company website. Now, like you said, it seems odd if you don’t have a SOCIAL web presence (either through a social media site or through an interactive forum on your regular website – like a shopping cart, blog, discussion board, etc).

      Sadly, I have a number of clients without either. I encourage them to get SOME type of online presence because nearly all consumers research online before purchasing a product or service. If they don’t know you exist, they won’t come to you. Of course, there’s word-of-mouth marketing, but, like Qualman points out, it’s pretty much world-of-mouth marketing now – primarily done online through social media sites.

      So, I end up recommending to our clients that they at least set up a company Facebook page. Hey, it’s FREE and takes little work to set up! We also offer to set up landing pages through our corporate website, but those pages are not viewable through normal searching procedures. We have to provide those links directly (through the aforementioned Find a Physician feature).

      Either way, being visible online is a very important key to success.

      * * *



  3. My husband’s company is a privately owned business that likes to keep their business tight lipped. Seems contradictory, I know, but they are also in a very competitive industry. I was talking to one of their communications managers and he was expressing his frustration at how long it took to convince the company to start being more involved in social media. He brought up a really good point: even if they are not using social media to expand their business, if they want smart, educated and savvy young potential employees to even consider them, they need social media presence. So now they use Facebook, in particular, on a regular basis as a marketing tool for attracting talent. At the same time, is also highlights the company without giving any trade secrets away. At the end of the day, your social media campaign will not work if you are not using it on a regular basis. A website can be ignored for a while but social media needs to be at least weekly if not more frequently or why would anyone come back to it?

    Your dilemma about how to keep things private while still valuable reminds me of Humana Insurance’s website: http://www.humana.com. I wonder if your company could benefit from researching sites like this to see what they are doing as far as services for customers as well as social media. Just a thought!

  1. Pingback: Enterprise IT: From paper trail to online footprint | Communication Strategies for Emerging Media

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