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Companies obsessing about how to engage customers through digital and social media are at risk of missing the really big opportunities in their respective markets, accordingUniversity of Ulster marketing expert Professor Mark Durkin.

He was speaking to an audience of business practitioners and fellow academics including world-renowned leadership guru David Taylor during his professorial lecture at the Ulster Business School at the Jordanstown campus today.

During his talk Professor Durkin challenged local businesses to stop ‘reaching for the digital solution’ in their business and instead think about the marketing opportunity.

He said: “The use of digital and social media has become a holy grail for managers – they feel it is a cheap way to reach and engage their market. However, the evidence that this is being done badly is self-evident when one looks at the inappropriate use of Twitter and Facebook in established companies as wide-ranging as McDonalds, Mars, Pepsi and Qantas.

“While larger companies have the resources to absorb such mistakes - and deal with the resulting level of revolting customers - smaller firms do not. It is imperative therefore that small firm owner/managers learn from the mistakes of larger enterprises and use their customer closeness as an advantage to understand how such new media can be deployed appropriately to enrich the customer relationship. By doing this customers, rather than revolting, will be champions for the enterprise concerned.”

Welcoming David Taylor - author of the world’s fastest selling business book, The Naked Leader – to the Ulster Business School, Professor Durkin said: “David has been a friend of the Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy for many years and has visited the campus twice before. I think his message that we all have within us the power to change our futures is a powerful one in these difficult economic times. Students on our marketing and entrepreneurship programmes were hugely motivated by the talk he gave to students earlier today.”

With respect to Professor Durkin’s lecture Mr Taylor added: “I’m delighted to visit the University once again and to hear Mark’s views on how the adoption of digital marketing needs to become more marketing-driven. The position taken by Mark exemplifies the challenges for all of us to lead entrepreneurially – with this approach will can shape our futures and it is so encouraging to see the fantastic energy around this issue within the Business School.”