Why do businesses love social media? I have come across many executives from various countries and diverse backgrounds, and it seems that they fall in either of 2 categories: those who love and those who hate Social Media (née Web 2.0). To many a big logo, social media is fascinating in more than many ways, to others, it’s a no go area for serious brands, and best left off to techies. However strong the opinions they may express, in either direction, these aren’t always backed up by fact. Let’s review some of these arguments and feel free to comment and add your thoughts. Part one of this article is dedicated to the
8 reasons businesses love Social Media, for good or not so good reason
- Social Media holds the promise of exponential growth, as inspired by the success stories of the likes of Facebook or, more recently, Twitter. It is hard not to be tempted by such a promise. Social media is also seen as a privileged way of gaining access to generation Y. But not just (re.LevGrossman’s Time magazine story entitled Why Facebook Is For Old Fogies”). Social Media may seem easy; you just have to create a Facebook account, and hey presto! You’re rich and famous. Well, in fact, you aren’t. Social media is a medium of its own and has its rules. Not anyone is granted that sense of cool which is going to make you immensely popular. And social media requires hard work. Tough work, I mean it, success is not for the faint-hearted,
- For brands, it is also a new way of reaching (more and better)people in a less intrusive, more personal, more likeable fashion. As a result, it provides a valid response to the increasing difficulties faced by many big corporations in trying to reach target audiences because of traditional media fragmentation. Traditional top-down communications are just not appropriate anymore (to prove my point let me point you to Wells Fargo’s story and learn from their evolving means of communications by watching the videos of their US commercials over 3 decades [exhibit 1-exhibit 2]). But that’s not all. Internet users are even more exacting about your brand. You can’t just go on delivering the same old messages over and over again. So, play by the rules and be humble, writing for the internet is a job in itself and
- It is more modern and fashionable than your old-fashioned website. But is it a valid argument? Just becauseSteven Fry is a heavy user of Twitter (for Fry’s Twitter page click here), and Posterous doesn’t mean that your business can benefit in the same way. Let’s face the facts; Fry didn’t need Twitter to become popular, for he was so long before he chose to use Twitter. Not all brands can become cult brands, and likeable, and going online will not just make up for years of marketing failure. Strangely enough, some trendy brands like Apple chose not to have Corporate blogs (see Forrester’s Bernoff’s comment on Apple here). Social media should be chosen not because it’s cool, but because it enables brands to initiate and engage in passionate discussions with clients and brand fanatics or become opinion leaders or evangelists. At the end of the day, there has to be some return on Engagement from social media (and please note that I didn’t mean return on Investment). But if there is no point or synergy with your brand, you should forget about it altogether,
- It is – the Internet in general – more measurable (with a few minor adjustments though, but at least we can measure something). Visits can be traced; people recruited individually, newsletters and files built from nothing. Well, almost, for you to do that you’ll need to break free from that old internet present syndrome (i.e. merely reproducing online what you have done in print) and learn how the medium works. For advertising, carpet bombing is not a valid strategy in social media. And opportunities abound: Facebook offers targeted banner ads, Netvibes makes it possible for brands to create their own universe (see Cap Gemini’s personalised start page), or personalised widgets with guaranteed numbers of downloads, and YouTube also allows brands to personalise their YouTube channels (see Wal-Mart’s example here) etc.
- It also holds the promise of being cheap. And it’s true to a large extent. That is to say, as long as you have hired the right kind of professionals who understand social media live and breathe the stuff. Like #4 in this list was about highlighting the new ways chosen by social media platforms to make (or try to make) money with targeted advertising, here are a few examples which cost nothing to set up and are bringing results anyway (example 1, example 2, example 3),
- At the end of the day. It also bears the promise of personalised, ‘one-to-one’ marketing by targeting ads to content and linking it to profiles. At least, it enables advertising agencies to propose performance-based digital marketing campaigns either through PPC – PPL – PPA – PPS (*), which provide an alternative means of advertising content, newsletters, products or services. With such a system, enterprises no longer pay for some banner displays but an actual result. Such examples exist coupled to social media websites or blogs and enable better targeting of ads,
(*) i.e. pay per click, pay per lead, pay per sales, pay per action etc.
- To certain managers, social media often appears as “this stuff in which we can go to manipulate opinions by infiltrating social networks”. I have heard that often, and even stopped a couple of these digital gunslinging initiatives. Please don’t believe that no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet because it’s not true at all. Many an Internet illiterate has tried this, and it’s not even that it doesn’t work, but it’s about the fact that it can really be dangerous and damaging for your brand. If you don’t believe me, just read FT’s February 2009 story entitled Blogs That Spin a Web of Deception. Disclosure is not an option for brands which want to go into social media. Read about ,
- Social media appeals to many professional marketers because markets are conversations. All Internet experts know that, except that it is not always true. High tech products (such as mobile devices for instance) trigger passionate discussions. Still, lesser-known, niche professional products or services (such as enterprise telephony or outsourcing, for example) are more difficult, and that does not always have something to do with Market definition in B2B and B2C - The very notion of "market" is at the heart of any marketing approach. A market can be defined... sizes. Don’t believe, for instance, that setting up a community website is all that is required to kick start online discussions. The first thing that you’ll need is traffic before more qualitative interaction can take place. Contrary to what most people think, web 2.0 is not about technology; it’s about people. Web 2.0 is not about adding widgets on your static website; only nerds can believe that.
Social media is a tremendous opportunity for Marketing managers wanting to add zest to their strategies and campaigns as long as they can decipher the myths behind social media, avoid the common traps, learn the language and hire the right kind of seasoned professionals to handle such initiatives properly.