A couple of years back I wrote an article on the effect of social networking. (http://tiny.cc/zKny7 ) Back then, orkut was the new craze and chat rooms were just going out of fashion. I wondered if companies would start hiring people by looking at their profiles OR would people start living alternate lives in virtual 3-dimensional worlds!
However, the net was shaping up another surprise. People got more interconnected than ever before and started to talk to each other and share pictures, videos and most importantly - opinion. Today, almost no net-savvy user buys products without researching for it on the internet. Whats more? The research always includes user-reviews, friend recommendations, opinions on orkut communities etc. I recently decided to watch the movie Ingulorious Bestards when a ‘friend’(someone I barely know, but is on my friend list) announced on facebook that he loved it!
Such phenomenon throws up new challenges for marketers. No matter what the advertisements say or what the product’s official website says, customers are still likely to make their decisions based upon user-reviews from people they may or may not know. To make matters worse, there are the customer complaint websites which provide enough outlets for people who do not like a product or service to voice their concerns.
Let us be honest, every marketeer has (or soon will) ask himself, “can this huge media opportunity be ‘managed’?!” With the huge number of users generating content and ever increasing outlets offered by the internet; I’m afraid it can’t.
Let us assume theoretically that some marketeer had the budget to buy off ad-space on practically every website. Still, people will write what comes to their minds. A big web-banner next to the worst review from a customer would surely be little else than farcical. Therefore, at least on the social media: ‘the truth shall prevail’!
We have official Tata Nano communities on Orkut, Facebook and maybe soon on Twitter. Rather than imposing our thoughts, we let our customers express themselves and listen to them intently.