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Engage or enrage: What the new monitoring means

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