Tim Buckley Owen Social networkers to business: "Get out!"
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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Most businesses still struggle to find the Holy Grail of engagement with customers on social media, suggest a couple of new reports. If so, it’s not for want of tools to help them – but the real question is whether social network users want the big brands to be there at all.

Global executives attribute over half of their brand’s reputation to how sociable it is, according to Socialising Your Brand, a report from public relations firm Weber Shandwick in association with Forbes Insights. Yet many seem to have difficulty mastering the challenges of brand sociability, and executives generally acknowledge that they still have far to go.

Not surprisingly, the PR firm behind the report has plenty of solutions to offer – including the advice that you should “listen more than you talk”. In which case, the plethora of available listening tools just continues to multiply.

Market research firm StrategyOne has just announced a new daily multi-language digital media measurement and analytics tool called Sunrise. StrategyOne’s boast is that it will offer clients “a richer perspective into the conversations and underlying trends that impact the attitudes of their key stakeholders”.

Meanwhile another market researcher, Harris Interactive, has just launched the panel-based Word-Of-Network (WON), offering quantitative categorisation of comments about brands based on their positive, negative or neutral sentiments. WON also controls for volume of conversation around a brand and provides clients with a means to predict brand performance, the company says.

And finally, Adobe’s SocialAnalytics roadshow has been spending the last month making its way round Europe. Its claim is that it’s the first such solution to measure the impact of social media on business, capturing conversations and correlating their impact with key business metrics such as revenue and brand value.

All this is fine so long as consumers continue to acquiesce in this sort of scrutiny. But as LiveWire suggested recently there could be fatal flaws in commercial exploitation of social media, and another new survey tends to bear this out.

Digital Life: Understanding the Opportunity for Growth Online, from market researcher TNS, is also about how businesses can engage better with customers socially. But tucked in alongside the headline figure that 47% of consumers now comment about brands online is the perhaps more alarming one that around 60% of people in developed markets simply aren't willing to engage with brands on social media.

TNS warns that muscling in on social media can be detrimental to the brand, and that brands need to consider carefully how to build a relationship with their audience. But that still ignores the more fundamental question of whether, in the long term, social network users are going to tolerate sharing their space with business at all.

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