Social Media Marketing: A New Trend

Published: 05th April 2011
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Social Media Marketing: A New Trend


SHAIKH MOHAMMED FAISAL, Matrix 012010110114


MSU Graduate School of Management, March 2011





Abstract:


Social media sites have become a powerful force in shaping public opinion on virtually every aspect of commerce. Because they amplify word-of-mouth marketing, they are becoming increasingly important in consumer’s purchasing decisions. To keep up, marketers must learn to leverage these sites. Social media may become more important than advertising as a trusted source of information; and, because consumers provide much of the content, marketers have less control over messaging and positioning. Here, social networks are described along with ways in which companies can participate in the conversation and influence the message.


Users share opinions and make recommendations on social networking sites. It has been repeatedly shown that consumers seek others opinions when considering the purchase of products and services. In fact, 78% of global consumers say they trust and believe other people’s recommendations for products and services more than any other medium. Among life scientists, others’ opinions are also seen as more objective than companies’ own marketing messages. Consumers use online sources including social networks, to find those opinions.


So what does it mean to be useful in a world of virtual conversations enabled by social networks? Obviously, there are no generic solutions, and each company will need to invent and discover what makes sense for its unique situation. However, there are few lessons to be learned that can be encapsulated in two primary insights. First, a powerful way for a brand to be useful in the virtual world is to confer social importance on its users. Second, "virtual items" are critical to stimulating social interactions that may in turn generate word of mouth.





Introduction:


What is Social Networking?





Social networking, also referred to as social media, encompasses many internet-based tools that make it easier for people to listen, interact, engage and collaborate with each other. Social networking platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, message boards, Wikipedia and countless others are catching on like wildfire. People use social networking to share recipes, photos, ideas and to keep friends updated on our lives. In many cases, you can use social networking tools from mobile devices, such as Blackberries and iPhones, as easily as from a PC or Mac. By its very nature, social networking is interactive. You can tell anyone (that you want to talk to, and that wants to listen to you) anything about your opinions and experiences—and vice versa—through blogs, Facebook pages, videos and even 140 character messages called tweets. You can also build communities based on common interests, causes and concerns.


Here are few samples of today’s most popular social networking tools:


Blogs are sites that people set up to provide information and opinions about events, ideas or anything else they want to discuss. Blogs can include links to other related sites, photos, videos and sound as well as text. The number of bloggers is growing exponentially; eMarketer estimates that in 2007 there were almost 23 million U.S. bloggers and more than 94 million blog readers.


Twitter is a micro-blogging site. Twitter members post text messages called "tweets" of 140 characters or less, using either a computer or a cell phone. Other Twitter users can "follow"" your posts, but you can decide if you want to let them follow you or not. Compete.com, a Web-traffic analysis service, says that Twitter had 6 million unique visits in February 2009.


Facebook is a social networking site where you can set up a profile, join different communities, and connect with friends. More than 500 million people currently use Facebook—and the fastest growing demographic is people over the age of 35.


LinkedIn is a social networking site with about 38 million members. While it shares a lot of the same features and capabilities you’ll find on Facebook, LinkedIn focuses specifically on helping people build career and business communities.


Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Articles provide links to related information. In 2008, Wikipedia had 684 million visitors, and 75,000 contributors working on more than 10 million articles.


YouTube is a site to share and watch videos. Anyone can record a video and then upload and share it via the YouTube site. Everyone can watch the videos on YouTube. In January 2011, The U.S. Congress and YouTube announced the launch of official Congressional YouTube channels, which gives each member of the House and Senate the opportunity to create his or her own YouTube channel.








What is Social Media Marketing?





Social media marketing is the marketing strategies that smart businesses are employing in order to be a part of a network of people online. Just as friends gather in public pubs, coffee shops, or barber shops, groups of people are gathered and connected through various online tools and websites. These people rely on their online network of friends for advice, sharing, and socializing.


Many different styles of online communities have surfaced over the years. However within the last few years, newly created communities are offering more rich interaction. These marketing strategies allow conversation, connection, and a sense of community among its members.





How Social Networks Affect Purchase Decisions?





Users share opinions and make recommendations on social networking sites. It has been repeatedly shown that consumers seek others opinions when considering the purchase of products and services. In fact, 78% of global consumers say they trust and believe other people’s recommendations for products and services more than any other medium1. Among life scientists, others’ opinions are also seen as more objective than companies’ own marketing messages. Consumers use online sources including social networks, to find those opinions.


Members of social networks serve two roles; they both supply and consume content. The creators of content are typically highly engaged consumers and, as a result, influential. If the proper influencers are reached with a message that they perceive as valuable, it can become viral. This is tremendously powerful to marketers, as users don’t feel that the information is being pushed at them, but referred to them by a trusted friend in a trusted network.





Nazri needs to buy a new car but he’s tired of all the commercials on the radio and TV. He considers going to Google to search for a good dealer near him but instead decides to post a question on his Facebook status: "Nazri is looking for a new car. Any suggestions?"


Within minutes his friend Sue wrote on Nazri’s Facebook wall leaving him a message, "I just got a new car from XYZ Dealers. As crazy as buying a car is, my experience was really good. Want the guy’s number?" She also provided a link to the local dealer.


XYZ Dealers is fortunate that one of their satisfied customers is willing to not just tell Nazri, but also tell all of Nazri’s Facebook friends that XYZ Dealers is a good company to deal with. Meanwhile, ABC Dealers missed the opportunity. They spent all of their marketing resources on radio commercials and Google placement. Nazri never even acknowledged their marketing efforts.





The oldest and most reliable form of marketing has always been one friend referring another friend to a product or service. With the proliferation of so many online, social websites, people are connected to each other in new, agile, and quite public ways. The marketing practices of any business who wants to be successful today and tomorrow will be involved in online social media marketing.





Social Networking Usage


Social Networking can be a component of numerous business initiatives, including:


• Amplifying word-of-mouth marketing


• Market research


• General marketing


• Idea generation & new product development


• Co-innovation


• Customer service


• Public relations


• Employee communications


• Reputation management





The Benefits of Social Network Marketing


The benefits to marketing via social networks are numerous and largely gained at a very low cost. Through social networks, you can:


• Increase Product and Brand awareness


• Increase web traffic


• Improve SEO


• Increase customer loyalty


• Increase success of new product launches








Increase Product & Brand Awareness


Marketing on social networking sites will increase awareness by increasing the online presence of your products and brand. A recent iProspect Search Marketer Social Networking Survey revealed that 48% of search marketers proactively place content on popular social networking sites to drive traffic and create brand awareness. When your company forms a group or organizes a promotion on a social networking site, the members are reminded of your brand and website with every interaction.


Since the customers are deciding what groups they want to join and what information they want to receive, this information is usually positively received.





Increase Web Traffic


Communications, recommendations, and other postings on social networking sites often contain web links. If your company is mentioned and a link is included, these postings drive traffic to your site, increasing brand and product awareness. Due to the makeup of social networking sites, these links are naturally targeted to potential customers that are interested in your company, products, or services.





Improve SEO


As mentioned previously, when your company or product is discussed online, the content is most often accompanied by web links. The more links to your content, the higher your ranking in search engine results, resulting in more people reading your content. Consequently, social media marketing campaigns


should be an integral part of any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. Search engines weigh the value of each link in context, and as they relate to your website. As a result, links from social networking sites have more value, because they appear completely natural to the search engines — users are sharing content perceived as valuable and then linking back to that content. Not only are these links more valuable than paid links, but also they are significantly less expensive.


Additionally, sites such as reddit, Delicious, Digg and others enable the sharing, tagging and bookmarking of news, articles, postings, and other information. When a piece of information is marked by any of these services, it will be visited by others and will show up searches. The more your content is marked, the higher it is ranked by search engines.





Increase Customer Loyalty


If done correctly, promoting your company or products by building a social network can greatly enhance customer loyalty. If your participation is consistent and honest, adds value by supplying useful content, and appears personal, it will greatly enhance your company’s reputation while building trust and credibility. Offer help first, and promote your products only when asked and when appropriate; otherwise your attempts could be considered spam.





Increase Success of New Product Launches


Social networks provide a unique opportunity to survey the relevant community on their products wants and needs. The community can guide and participate in the product development process. Giving them a voice in the process can increase loyalty and guarantee success when a new product is launched.





Highly Targeted Communication


Users of social networking sites profile themselves upon joining a network. These profiles can be very detailed, and their purpose is to help the user connect with others who share similar interests and activities. In the case of LabRoots, the profiles contain, not only basic information about the user, but also information on their education, areas of technical expertise, publications, memberships in other groups, geographic location, and job position (among other information). For marketers, this information is invaluable as it can be used to develop highly targeted marketing messages.


Online Community Groups: MySpace & Facebook





Two of the most popular online community groups are MySpace.com and Facebook.com. What sets these as leaders is how they allow anyone to create content on their own personalized, free website and connect with their friends’ websites. It’s more than just linking to their friends; they are interacting with them and sharing content. These groups have become very popular because they provide the ability to connect with individuals or join groups and networks. Community members share messages, photos, videos, music, play games and socialize all inside the context of their group of friends.





Communicating One-to-Many: Blogs, Media Blogs, & Microblogs





Blogs were the first kind of websites to really leverage the ease and structure for one person to create content for the purpose of communicating with many people. Services such as Blogger.com and Wordpress.com have become the default free services for new and consistent bloggers. Blogs allow people to subscribe to website updates and the site structures and archives all content with ease. The site allows comments to be made by visitors interacting with the author.


Blogs are very versatile in that the content can contain just about anything allowing various sorts of media blogs. One can create a video blog by posting videos to YouTube.com, a photo blog by posting photos to Flickr.com, or audio files creating a podcast (such as one might find in the popular music program iTunes). All of these methods allow one to have a rich media presence with interactivity built in.


A business or individual may have a public profile for many of these services such as with YouTube and Flickr. Similar to online community groups, people are able to comment, share, and connect with others around a multitude of niches. One of the newest trends in the one-to-many content creation websites are microblogs. These sites, such as Twitter.com and FriendFeed.com, follow some of the same methods of connecting with each other. The difference here is that the messages are short. Twitter, for example, is limited to 140 text characters so that one can use SMS mobile text messaging to send and receive updates. Others, such as Tumblr.com, allow a more rich experience using photos, videos, links, and a few other forms of sharing. Microblogging values brevity and speed.





Communicating Many-to-Many: Multi-Authored Blogs, Discussion Boards, Collaborate & Share





Sometimes content is created online by a several contributors, not just one person initiating the topic. One of the popular ways for this to happen is to simply have multi-authored blogs or podcasts. Since blog technology is so flexible, it is easy to manage several authors posting content and inviting conversations thorough the commenting on their blogs.


Discussion boards are one of the technologies that have been around in one form or another since the early days of the Internet. Content is generated by many authors in a threaded conversation typically following a question/answer or discussion format. One may begin the topic thread but many subsequent interactions fill the pages with valuable content.


Collaboration sites have arisen allowing multiple authors to create a "living webpage" called a wiki. Each person in the community can edit the pages live. Instead of having discussions as the main subject, people edit the page itself. With a free account, hosted wikis are created daily by individuals, groups, and businesses on websites such as WetPaint.com and PBwiki.com. The most popular use of this technology is the web resource Wikipedia.com.


Another way of viewing online collaboration is when users share, save and/or submit an entire webpage for others to see. Similar to bookmarking a website, these sites allow others to see what sites are being saved and shared. There are several of these social bookmarking sites such as the popular Yahoo-owned delicious.


Some of these sharing sites allow others to submit a website allowing the community to vote the submission up or down based on if they like it or not. The popular sites move up the list while the unpopular slide to the bottom. The more popular (or most voted) sites begin to attract a lot of traffic. Two examples of submission voting sites include Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com. In each of these, one may connect with their friends to see what they are voting for.








Why Be Involved in Social Media?





Knowing that these resources are available can simply be an education for those not in the know. However, we want to help you understand the importance of being involved in these social networks for your marketing purposes.


These sites begin to serve as hubs on the web where large groups of people, usually with similar niche interests, are gathered together. The philosophy is simple: show up where your target audience is spending time. Showing up serves you in several ways:


1. Exposure to your target audience


2. Interact with your target audience


3. Share your business personality


This social marketing strategy speaks to the need for proper branding and customer service strategies in place.


Another reason it is good to be involved in social media is that your content can be sent to those interested in receiving updates. Subscribers are often offered several methods to be updated. They can sign up and can unsubscribe with ease. Therefore the ones connected to you are the ones who are most interested in who you are and what you offer.


It is also important for you to participate in the online conversation about your brand. These user-generated social media tools are where the conversations take place. Since it is easy for people to publish content, they can and will talk about your brand – for good or for bad. Being a part of that conversation is valuable and important. Your fans who write about you are influential. Your enemies can be won over by showing up, listening, and interacting. When a content-publishing enemy becomes a fan, their voice becomes quite valuable in the network – and the Internet always remembers!





Case Study: Dell





In early 2007 Dell opened a website at IdeaStorm.com. The site mimics a public suggestion box but with voting enabled for each suggestion. Anyone, after creating a free account, can add a suggestion to IdeaStorm.com that they would like Dell to read. Other members of the site are allowed to comment on each user-submitted suggestion (including Dell employees) and vote the suggestion up or down. The more votes it receives the higher priority it becomes for Dell management to take notice and make decisions based on the popular ideas.


Since IdeaStorm.com went live, Dell has listened and implemented many suggestions generated from the site calling them "Ideas In Action" and are archived on their website (http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/ideastorm/ideasinaction).


Immediately after its launch in February of 2007 one of the highest voted suggestions was for Dell to provide a Linux-based operating system. Dell listened and within a month created an online survey to help clarify the specifics of what the public wanted. The survey was overwhelmed with feedback (http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2007/03/13/7985.aspx) but Dell took it all to heart when it released Linux-based machines by the end of May that year.








Case Study: Zappos





Zappos.com sells shoes online and they thrive on great customer service. Offering a 24/7 Customer Service toll-free number isn’t enough for them. Along with their storefront website, Zappos keeps a network of blogs (http://blogs.zappos.com) open with new conversations constantly. They also use Twitter.com to participate in the "Twitter Universe" by monitoring and even publishing all Zappos-related conversations on their own website (http://twitter.zappos.com).


Though Zappos also publishes casual company videos on YouTube


(http://www.youtube.com/user/insidezappos), CEO Tony Hsieh admits their launch into MySpace and Facebook were not met with the best success. However, Zappos has seen a lot of fanfare and buzz by interacting with people through blogs and Twitter. Employees do not just engage with the public on their own network of websites, they monitor and comment on other people’s blogs when appropriate.





Plan for Marketing by Social Networking Now!





According to a recent survey conducted by Red Bridge Marketing, approximately 1/3 of the companies in the life science industry plan on incorporating some form of social networking into their 2009 marketing plan. This represents a more than 100% increase in companies who used social networking as part of their 2008 marketing plan. Most frequently life science companies are leveraging social networks to increase brand awareness, deliver product information to prospects/customers, and to increase sales. For more information, see the sidebar, Social Media Marketing Trends. To start using social networking to reach your scientific customers, find a network that has the scientific audience you wish to reach and the features you need to establish your network.





Conclusion





New social media has changed the way people connect and interact today by allowing businesses to exchange in both private and public conversation with the public in new and exciting ways. There are many tools at our disposal each with its own set of social norms, goals, and audiences. Though one can jump right into the social media marketing arena, it is advisable to have a strategy and plan to gain success. When done strategically, one may see great success by being able to have a more personal relationship with people who are interested in who you are and what you offer.





References





Michael Zeisser, McKinsey Quarterly, Unlocking the elusive potential of Social Network, June 2010.





Nazri Jantsch, Let’s Talk: Social Media for Small Business.





A Nielsen Report on Social Networking’s New Global Footprint, Global Faces and Networked Places, March 2009.





Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Social Network Marketing: What Works? A Q&A session with Professor Sunil Gupta, July 2009.





An article by Adam Ostrow, Social Networking Still the # 1 Growth Area in Online Marketing, January 2009.





An article by Laurie McCabe, What is Social Networking, and Why Should You Care? January 2009.





An article by Michael A. Stelzner from Social Media Marketing Industry Report, How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Business, April 2010.





An article by Rob Williams of Orangejack LLC, What is Social Media Marketing? February 2009.





A Red Bridge Marketing Report on Social Network Marketing: The Basics, 2008.




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