by Edward J
In a world of cut throat competition finding a way to reach customers can mean life or death for start-up companies. Even well established companies must always try to find new ways to stay in the public’s consciousness. Becoming or staying relevant is a daunting task when one considers the deluge of adverts an average person experiences every day. People become numb to them, and end up partially or completely ignoring the various commercials, billboards, and specials they come across hundreds of times each and every day. Advertising can often feel like trying to fill a barrel of water with an eye dropper or asking someone to find your needle in the ol’ haystack. A company can easily find itself throwing money into a black hole called marketing, with little or no results. On the other hand a smart and efficient company can find clever and affordable ways to reach potential customers, and not only reach customers but truly grasp their attention. One new and powerful tool to help with such a task is marketing via social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Since the dawn of the internet social media, sites or applications that allow users to share information with friends and acquaintances, has been very popular. Early sites such as Linkedin.com and Myspace.com soon multiplied and now there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of social media based sites. Some of the giants today are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all with several million users who share status updates and pictures with one another like an ongoing conversation between a group of friends. Now imagine being able to inject your products and promotions right into that personal and intimate conversation. That’s what marketing with social media offers.
There are several methods for accomplishing this goal of social marketing, the old-fashioned way is to find sites that allow for banner advertising such as Myspace.com and linkedin.com. Lauren Simonds claims that of the millions of Facebook users, the average user checks the service 14 times a day. In order to tap in to this users can make use of Promoted Posts, where your post is turned into an ad and Facebook Offers which are essentially virtual coupons. However, these ads are similar to those found throughout the internet and all add to the ‘noise’ caused by advertisements, and are easily ignored. So what then should be the goal of a company who wishes to make use of social media? The answer is getting people to ‘talk’ about your brand or products and creating a pseudo word of mouth effect.
The most basic step is creating a company profile on various social sites. Users are able to ‘like’, ‘follow’, or ‘favorite’ your profile and doing so shares that activity with their network. Gaining a noteworthy amount of ‘follows’ is commendable in and of itself and can have a viral effect. This can lead to more people visiting a profile and seeing what a company has to offer. So the question becomes, how to I get people to follow me? Finding that ‘it’ factor that draws people to a company profile unfortunately is not very simple, but there are tried and true methods used by many companies. According to Petros Giannakouris, one such method is the ‘check-in’ discount. Foursquare and other sites offer the ability for users to use geo-location ‘check-in’ and announce where they currently are. Encouraging customer’s to check in at your store is a great way to gain exposure, and many companies offer promotions for doing so. From personal experience, my local Chipotle Mexican Grill often offers customers a discount or free drink if they show the cashier a Facebook check in on their mobile device. In order to capitalize on this phenomenon, Facebook has created a ‘Deals’ feature for their mobile site which streamlines the process.
Another great way to build a buzz is effective use of Instagram, an app where user can only share pictures with captions. A picture is worth a million words, right? Well being able to share that much information with millions of Instagram users can be very valuable in attracting attention. Rachel Sprung suggests companies reward followers with promo codes and other potential perks. Also, companies can hold photo competitions where users compete by posting images of company products with the appropriate hashtag, a tool used to group content. Additionally, Instagram and other photo based social networks are a great way to keep customers updated on new products and company events.
Another powerful tool is Twitter, where users post text with a short character limit. According to Michael Stelzner, there are many effective ways to make use of twitter and other micro blogging sites. One such way is dealing customer service. Internet users are habitual complainers and undoubtedly companies will receive complaints via social media. Twitter offers various tools to respond to such complaints, and doing so will convey an interest in customer well being. Customer’s dissatisfaction is often quickly abated if a company responds in a timely fashion. Additionally, social media is great way to make announcements about upcoming product lines or anything relevant to potential customers.
Social media marketing is an undeniably powerful tool, but it’s no miracle guaranteed to increase sales. You can have all the ‘likes’, ‘tags’ and ‘follows’ in the world but they won’t do you any good of the customers aren’t buying your products. Pat Lapointe suggests that while social media can offer high levels of brand engagement, companies shouldn’t throw out their current advertising strategy, especially if it’s working. Lapointe continues to recommend that companies use traditional marketing in conjunction with the social media to strengthen brand identity.
In conclusion, a 2011 study performed by the Advertising Research Foundation found that social media have empowered consumers by giving them a voice open to the public and companies must facilitate this conversation by openly sharing brand values. This ongoing conversation between individuals, the public in general, and the companies themselves provides a method for consumers and companies to find mutual interest and connect with one another.
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Introducing Deals. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=446183422130
LaPointe, P. (2012). Measuring Facebook’s Impact on Marketing. Journal Of Advertising Research, 52(3), 286-287. doi:10.2501/JAR-52-3-286-287
POWERS, T., ADVINCULA, D., AUSTIN, M. S., GRAIKO, S., & SNYDER, J. (2012). Digital and Social Media In the Purchase Decision Process: A Special Report from the Advertising Research Foundation. Journal Of Advertising Research, 52(4), 479-489. doi:10.2501/JAR-52-4-479-489
Simonds, L. (n.d.). Mobile Marketing on Facebook. Time. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2013/04/16/mobile-marketing-on-facebook/
Twitter Marketing How to Use Twitter for Business | Social Media Examiner. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/twitter-marketing-how-to-use-twitter-for-business/