Corporate Eye

Social Media – The ‘Always On’ Focus Group

focus_group-meetingI read a really interesting post on the PR Week website today called Intent is the New Demographic written by Tyler Pennock, SVP and director of social media for Ruder Finn.  In the post, Tyler provides three essential steps that all brands should follow in the world of social media marketing and branding:

  1. Join the conversation and contribute new content that’s relevant to the brand and adds value.
  2. Fulfill unmet needs.
  3. Offer an incentive.

There is no doubt that adding value to the online conversation is imperative in any social media initiative, and Tyler’s three steps are certainly valid.  However, what I found most interesting about Tyler’s article was written in the last paragraph of his post, and I quote:

“One of the main benefits that comes from understanding the audience’s intent, is that we as PR professionals can begin to tap into to the always-on focus group that is social media. Looking to add value for users means that we are gaining insight about how to optimize not only our communications, but the brand itself.”

So often we hear marketers and branding people talk about adding value and engaging consumers in social media marketing and branding that we forget the amazing analytical tool that social media can be.  Those of us who have been in this field for more than a decade (possibly even more than 5 years) remember a time when social media didn’t exist and the conversations between our consumers happened in places that we could only access within the four walls of a high priced focus group facility.  The conversations weren’t real.  They were manufactured.

That’s the amazing thing about social media.  Marketers can start conversations, they can try to nurture conversations along a certain path, but the true power of the social web occurs when marketers give up control of those conversations and let them grow and spread.

These days, executives are asking marketers to justify the cost of investing manpower in social media.  I don’t think justification is necessary at all.  Think of how far we’ve come in the world of social media in the past 10 years, 5 years, 1 year.  The companies that aren’t involved in social media soon are the ones that will be playing catch up later — but when?  In 10 years, 5 years, 1 year?  My bet is on the latter.

Your thoughts?

Image: Stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Hi Susan,
So sorry for not contributing to this earlier! Thanks so much for posting about my article. On the topic of intent, Ruder Finn has just launched a new research tool called the “Intent Index”. It’s based on a survey of internet users’ activities and what they’re looking to achieve online and in social media. Ultimately, we’re seeking to better understand what our audiences are looking to accomplish online – and where we can add value. Hope you’ll check it out:

Tyler Pennock
Ruder Finn PR

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