Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)

2 comments on “Target Audiences in a Virtual World

  1. Interesting read….I can really resonate with your point about companies responding to concerns or criticism on their social media pages straight away. I find that companies who take time to respond to people’s concerns straight away in the public forum can generally rectify the problems much better than those who are in denial. Many companies simply delete negative comments from their page, but this just creates further frustration for the upset client. Typically by attempting to address the issue, the company solves the problem and keeps the customer (along with everyone watching the post) happy!

    When I hear about suppliers giving away free products to reviewers I tend to question the accuracy of the review. Its hard for a consumer to know which reviews may have been fabricated or exaggerated by the reviewer so that they can receive their ‘free gift’. How do you judge which blogs can be taken as truth, and which ones have been corrupted by the promise of free goods?

    • I agree with you about freebies being reviewed; and I’ve been the recipient of several free things in exchange for reviews. I tend to be VERY worried about researchers who are being paid by a company and “miraculously” find that their research HAPPENS to conform to the client’s platform. For me, I tend to follow reviewers that have the same tastes as me (as made clear by their reviews of some of my most familiar games), and the ones who seem to be critical regardless of how popular the game is. Social psychology tells us that’s true for most people. We tend to give more persuasive power to those who we find to be a bit fallible or at least capable of seeing both sides of an argument (Myers, 2010).

      As a reviewer, I can say that I don’t feel bad giving a bad review. Honestly, it seems to me they want feedback as well as publicity. Giving out reviews of a game (and they’re BIG companies usually, so they can totally afford a few) is a genius way to get the feedback they need from the players who know what they’re talking about. Smith and Wollan (2011) suggest hitting up influential users with large fan bases, as a way to get companies access to large groups of consumers very quickly. They also suggest using pro-sumers (i.e., fanboys/fangirls) as a way to attract a somewhat varied opinion of their product/service.

      Thanks for YOUR feedback, btw. 🙂


      Myers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

      Smith, N., Wollan, R., & Zhou, C. (2011). The social media management handbook : everything you need to know to get social media working in your business. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

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