Have you been dipping your toe into the waters of social media marketing, but are still wondering exactly what the point is? Don't let yourself be left floundering by the competition. In this report you'll find out why it's not just advisable, but absolutely essential that you engage with social media as soon as possible.
'The number one benefit of social media marketing is gaining the all-important eyeball.'
Michael A. Stelzner, 'Social Media Marketing Industry Report,' 2009.
As you may have guessed from the title of this section, the number one benefit most businesses gain from engaging with social media is increased visibility. There are still quite a few business-owners who don't understand exactly why this increased visibility is valuable, however.
As an example, if you owned a business that only sells clothes in physical stores, you may wonder exactly what would be achieved by a customer viewing your business profile. They can't click on a link to buy yourproducts, so how would sales increase? Well, the answer lies in something known as 'brand familiarity'. Here's a definition from an essay on consumer behaviour that was written as far back as 1986:
Brand familiarity is a uni-dimensional construct that is directly related to the amount of time that has been spent processing information about the brand, regardless of the type or content of the processing that was involved.
Back in the eighties we were only just beginning to understand what has become a fully-fledged and well-grasped concept nowadays. What brand familiarity means in essence is that despite the relative qualities of a pair of products, a customer is more likely to choose the one they are more familiar with. This works most effectively when the brand is instantly recognisable by both a name and a logo. If the logo or name is changed by even a small amount, the brand connection can be broken. This is exactly how branding works and why businesses work so hard to create a specific, unchanging, easily-recognisable image.
Basically, branding is more effective the more often a potential customer comes into contact with that brand. Each contact reinforces brand familiarity and increases the likelihood that they will choose that product over all others.
At the moment there are 901 million monthly active users on Facebook , more than 200 million Twitter users , and 161 million LinkedIn users , to name just a few of the current major social networks. The average age of people most likely to use social media, contrary to popular belief, is 30 – 39, rather than the very young users you might expect .What this says is that all over the world decision-makers have their eyeballs on the social networks, eyeballs that you could be using to establish brand familiarity!
When you consider that social media also happens to be one of the cheapest ways out there to increase brand visibility, you may begin to understand why its use can really be ingenious.
Social media also happens to be fantastic when it comes to facilitating and generating the spectacular and well-known phenomenon of word of mouth. This can be one of the most powerful tools at any business owner's disposal, but it can also be a fickle and dangerous beast. The smartest businesses understand how to spark off word of mouth, as well as how to allow it to gather its own pace and momentum. If you have word of mouth on your side, you can hardly go wrong, as Dave Balter, author of The Word of Mouth Manual, knows well:
'This kind of word of mouth, pure as the driven snow, makes all those clever little marketing tricks look irrelevant. Pricing and promotions?Endcaps and shelf talkers? Pop ups and scavenger hunts? With pure word of mouth driving sales, you could hide the product on the bottom shelves at a second-tier department store, price it at triple what it's worth, and it would still vanish.'
Word of mouth on the sort of grand scale that's enjoyed by such brands as Apple can be very difficult, if not impossible, to generate. However, out there in the vast landscape of social media there is a conversation happening about pretty much every subject possible. Your duty is to get your brand involved in conversations that are relevant to it, and you can do this through social media involvement. Of course, you can't guarantee that people will start talking about it, but the chances are it can only happen if you're visible on the social media networks in the first place.
The reason word of mouth is so effective is because customers trust recommendations from other customers far more than they trust advertisements. In today's modern society, customers are extremely aware of the potentially false claims of advertisements and wary of trusting anything other than genuine advice. This is why a really enthusiastic customer who is willing to share their experiences will do a million times more for you than any advertisement ever could.
A recent report from TrendWatching.com shows that personal recommendations as well as personalised products and services are more popular than ever . The experts over at TrendWatching.com refer to the influence of friends, fans and followers on consumers' purchasing decisions as 'the f factor.' While the f factor is nothing new (customers have always been influenced by those around them), the social networks are, and the point is that people are increasingly going online to find out what their friends, fans and followers like, and to look for reviews and recommendations.
In many ways, it really does feel like a brave new world out there. The old advertising methods are becoming dated; customers are wary of trusting advertisement the way they used to, salesmen are universally despised, and consumerism really has evolved into something entirely different. A shiny advertisement with a beautiful model isn't going to fool your customers any longer; they want proof of your product's benefits, so they turn to their friends, fans and followers. Many businesses are finding this process of change quite difficult.
It is risky to open yourself up to genuine customer criticism in this way, but in many ways even criticism can be a positive thing. Listen to your critics and you may discover some of your own flaws that you weren't aware of. If you listen, the customer will basically tell you exactly what they want from your product or service. And if you're worried about the influence any negative conversation will have on your popularity, just remember that people will always talk anyway. You may as well be involved. At least you can then gain something from it, and your image will be improved immediately by your willingness to engage.
Engagement is crucial to the personalisation of products and services.Business is no longer a matter of simply putting out a product and watching your sales trends from afar; today's customers expect active engagement. They want to be able to ask you questions, and they want those questions to be answered. The barriers between producer and consumer are steadily falling down.
Another great and frequently overlooked benefit of social media marketing is the fact that your followers volunteer to be involved. You don't have to search for interested parties because they come to you instead. These are customers who are actively seeking information and looking for brands with which to affiliate. This also tends to make the conversation easier, as consumers are unlikely to follow brands that they actively dislike. A customer who really does like your brand, however, will want to display this as a marker of his online identity that can then be taken up by others.
Even if you still don't quite understand the benefits of social media marketing, it's important to engage anyway purely because right now, as we speak, your competitors are already doing it. Back in 2008, a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau said 'If you're not on a social networking site, you're not on the Internet.' If you're not on a social networking site in 2012, it really is high time you were.
Remember, all of your competitors who are already on social networking sites are currently establishing and reaffirming their brand identities constantly to your potential customers. Every time one of those customers logs in to Twitter, they see a tweet from your competitor which will remind them of their existence even if it doesn't particularly pique their interest. Every time they scroll through their friends list on Facebook, they see your competitor's name. And when they go to make a purchase, the power of that loaded word, friend, comes into play through subconscious processes that they are probably not even aware of.
Just to remind you of the scale of the global conversation that is happening on the biggest social network today ; there are currently 901 million monthly active users, 526 million daily active users, 125 billion friend connections and 3.2 billion likes on Facebook . Not being part of this could truly be fatal for your business.
Understandably, not every business has the time or resources to devote much attention to social media. Most businesses with an established social media presence spend anywhere from between ten to twenty hours a week on it , and this does require a great deal of manpower that may be needed for essential business processes.
This is possibly why more and more businesses these days are choosing to outsource their social media campaigns to experts who not only have the time and resources to devote to their campaigns, but most importantly, the expertise to make them really work.
Zanity has experts in social media management and online PR. They understand its intricacies and know exactly the style of communication that's necessary for each specific social media platform. For a skillfully tailored and targeted social media campaign, contact Zanity today.