Has social media made brands more honest?

This was one of the questions that was asked this morning at the Yorkshire Business Insider, Digital Economy Breakfast, which was hosted at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Using the hashtag #insideryorksdigital a collective of communication, brand, marketing and digital practitioners came together in a panel led discussion, which asked for questions from the audience that were then answered by four respective experts.

This question in particular really caught my attention as I don’t believe that it has made brands more honest, and in contrast to the feedback given by both panel and the audience, I feel that social media has forced business to be more responsive – not necessarily honest.

What we have to consider is whether factual means honest. I don’t believe that this is always the case and as such businesses are managing their communications better and being more considerate of what they say and where. Again, we need to note that considerate does not mean overtly sensitive, a better description may be controlled.

In a world that is full of people with opinions and comments that they are only too ready to share with the masses, particularly when something goes wrong, it is absolutely essential that brands are ready and willing to converse with their audience, providing feedback and assistance if the matter calls for it.

This sounds far simpler than it is. The nature of the beast means that the larger, and presumably more successful, a company becomes the more resource and budget it has to give to communicating with its ever growing audience.

In a world that has typically cut marketing and PR budgets during difficult times, as opposed to recognising the skills and asset that a communications team brings to a business, we can quickly identify where and why some brands have come a cropper over recent years.

With the good always comes the bad but in order to nurture brand ambassadors, while also assisting those with complaints, the landscape has changed and thankfully larger businesses have had to recognise the true value of PR and marketing communications.

Many of the errors that have been made when it comes to social media and the #epic #fails we all share are down to poor delegation. A junior member of the team is tasked with managing social media because no one else really understands it or has the time; after all they are too busy with the serious stuff.

The problem here is that the serious stuff is presumably the reputation of the company, which is directly driven by the way in which an organisation interacts, engages and communicates with its audiences.

Is it just me or are we stating to see a direct correlation here? Put simply, social = serious.

So, interestingly from this one question we can determine that perhaps social media hasn’t made brands more honest – after all, as organisations become more socially aware, they are also becoming more strategic with the way they engage – they are however more responsive and many of them now realise that you can’t ignore a medium that rightly or wrongly is used by an ever increasing number of consumers and businesses both as a platform for communication and search.