Corporate social media is not social -- it's sales media

Businesses are rushing into social media but is that the right place to sell their products?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

When it comes to corporate use of social media I have problems with the use of the word "social" because it's not accurate. It's not social its all about sales.

When most people use Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace, they use it for its social qualities. Yet when corporations use social media, they are using it for commercial purposes.

I see this as an important distinction because it affects how businesses should use social media.

I was moderating a panel earlier today on how businesses can use PR to leverage social media, and Louis Gray said something that was very insightful. He said that people create their Facebook pages in a specific way because that's the way they like it, they are comfortable there. If a business wants to engage with them there, they should do it as if they are a guest in their home.

Social media is great at strenthening ties between people but is it the right place for businesses? All that relationship building and engagement is not because a business wants to get to know Jane or John better, as a friend or relative would, it wants to sell more of its product or service. That's a far different agenda from most people's engagement in social media.

At parties, people will avoid that person that is selling something. Friends that invite their friends to tupperware parties, or multi-level marketing, are tolerated for a while, but not for long. Similarly, companies that use social media as sales media must understand there is a time and place for it, or they risk harming their brand./p>

Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of WPP, the world's largest marketing and communications group, has similar concerns about the commercial use of social media. The Financial Times recently reported:

Sir Martin warned on Tuesday that social media sites are ”less commercial phenomena, they are more personal phenomena,” more similar to ”writing letters to our mothers” than watching television.
”Invading these [social] media with commercial messages might not be the right thing.”

So let's be honest about corporate use of social media -- it's really all sales media -- let's not dress it up as anything else.

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