Monitoring social media has become not only necessary- but vital for modern day businesses in order to gauge brand perception and awareness.A few years back blog posts and its other social media variants (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter a form of micro blogging)were  considered simply as  merely online quips or  random rants of no persuasive value.Social media was more or less 'social play' that had little value for any business save for entertainment purposes or communication between employees.


But much has changed in the last few years. As we move to 2011 we now expect more businesses and organizations to shade off the " cautious engagement "mode of  engaging social media and move to "full deployment".International companies such as Shell & BP learnt that Social media can have tremendous influence over brand perception influencing sales even on an international level. BP 's Gulf of Mexico Oil spill crisis received massive social media backlash last year (consider the following articles on Globe&Mail  and Urlesque websites) the effect of which cannot be ignored. Hence other international brands are taking cue to monitor and respond effectively to brand perception online.

Dell Technologies Social Media Listening Command Centre:

Case in point is Dell Technologies which has established the first of its kind 'A Social Media Listening Command Centre'.According to Mashable Dell's aim is to ensure that they tracking the largest number of possible conversations across the web and making sure that they ‘internalize’ the feedback — both good and bad…



In fact according to this emarketer article  in 2011 , 4 in every 5   American businesses with atleast 5 employees will not only monitor social media but actively engage social media by marketing their products on online social platforms.This is an anticipated 42 % rise from previous years.In fact social media is the new adlib in the marketing mix.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND KENYAN BUSINESS BRANDS:


A question may arise what about local businesses? The local arm of  the communication group Young and Rubicam (see this News item on The Standard Newspaper ,Kenya) recently commisioned a research study that indicates some of the largest Brands are still slow in engaging Africans online especially on social media.But it is anticipated that this will change as market perception morphs.

It goes without say that Safaricom ,Orange and Airtel -the communication giants in Kenya have embraced impressive social media strategies to engage their users on the various social platforms. For example Safaricom has moved from the traditional aspect of having a facebook page to engaging the followers sometimes by carrying out random questionnaires whereby followers stand an opportunity to win airtime. I believe that is a first having monitored social media in Kenya for the last 7 years or so.However i hope that the brands will show more ingenuity in this arena.

How to approach and engage social media seems to be perhaps the enigma of local Businesses. There has been a recent upsurge to utilize PR firms to engage bloggers and social media 'thespians'.In fact most of the Press Releases in Kenya are now being done via Social Media as this is timely ,prompt and cost effective(atleast for the moment).It is suffice to note however that social media may not be as cheap as it seems. In the Western World businesses are having to review their budget as to what sums to deploy when dealing with social media next year .To paraphrase an article on Adage.Com.

Social media is free, right? In some business sectors, the thinking still holds that social media is free, or nearly free. Although earned media -- the value that companies get when their marketing messages spread virally -- is indeed free publicity, there is almost always a cost associated with it, whether it be staffing, creative development or monitoring the results.

The good news is most marketers say they are increasing social-media spending next year. But the actual dollar amounts are all over the map.



PR 2.0 is morphing and it seems to be the dominant propelling factor of Social Media-Business relationships in Kenya.Where it will take us, we adopt a wait and see attitude but notably "Brand Perception online" is the 'In Thing' in successful business marketing now!