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Ed’s view: The power of social media

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More and more companies in all industries are discovering how far ranging the impact of social media can be – for good and ill. But I’m not sure whether the UK catering equipment sector is fully onboard this runaway train which has been punching through public consciousness for more than a decade now.

In the latest digital report from marketing agency We Are Social, it states that an incredible 3.5bn people globally actively use social media, with 45m of those coming from the UK alone. That kind of audience is mind-blowing, and while of course only a small proportion of those users will be relevant to catering equipment dealers, suppliers and manufacturers, it seems like too many of these firms don’t realise the reach of social media, either ignoring it or not realising that one slip up can have consequences.

It was the latter reason which Nisbets fell foul of at the end of April, when it seemingly by mistake delivered one of its catalogues to an end user receiving equipment through its wholesale arm. The dealer who’d placed the order was not best pleased and so posted on LinkedIn, which then generated a mass discussion involving many industry luminaries. When Catering Insight reported on this fallout, it became far and away the most clicked-on story on our website last month.

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What any company needs to realise is that social media can hold it accountable for everything. It has to keep on top of its customer service and supply chain relationships to try and ensure that a row like the above doesn’t mushroom. These platforms essentially give a megaphone to anyone to air their issues publicly, and if it does happen then the firm involved needs to respond and resolve situations quickly.

There are also myriad opportunities for marketing your own company well to this massive social media audience, but many dealers especially do not grasp this. Taking to Twitter, as I sometimes do to see what the industry is up to, it is surprising how many distributors do not keep their accounts fresh, with the last tweet timestamped as 3 or more years ago. They might as well not bother in those cases. Worse still is those who haven’t got an account at all – how many sales opportunities might they be missing?

It also amuses me that when Catering Insight sometimes reports on news picked up from tweets linking to items posted on companies’ websites, we can received shocked messages saying that they didn’t want the news reported on. Think about this, if something is posted online and it’s not behind a paywall or login mechanism, it is public. It’s like beaming a message on the surface of the moon and then wondering why a lot of people saw it. I am puzzled by those who want some publicity but not too much – can companies really ever have too much?

So my advice would be this: embrace social media and ensure it is managed properly. The reach is incredible but if it is not monitored well, it could blow up in your face.

Tags : Editor's Viewopinionsocial media
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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