Social Media and the Marketing Opportunity
There’s a new form of marketing in town, and if you’re prepared to do some work, a lot of doors will open for you.
[enter social media marketing stage left]
Wikipedia defines social media in its broadest form as “an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.” In essence, social media – or ‘new media,’ as it is often called – encompasses various methods of communication that go beyond the age-old standard of a marketing team talking to potential customers by adding conversation, fluidity, and collaboration into the equation.
Social media is available in many forms, including blogs (Blogger, WordPress), microblogs (Twitter), photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket), video sharing (YouTube), RSS, social networking (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn), wikis (Wikipedia), social bookmarks and commentary (Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit), instant messaging (AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger), podcasts (Podcast Alley, iTunes), webcasts and video blogs (Rocketboom), online communities (MyBlogLog, Plaxo, Google Groups), consumer-owned shopping sites (Zazzle), and even virtual worlds (Second Life). This list does not by any means encompass all social media outlets – and, of course, more are being created and developed every day – but it’s a good start.
“This doesn’t sound like anything I have in my so-called ‘integrated’ marketing campaign. Why would we use any of these strangely-named sites for marketing?”
Hmm. I don’t know. Maybe because over 112 million blogs are already being tracked by Technorati, a number which doesn’t even include those sites not submitted to the leading blog-sharing site. In January of this year, 79 million viewers watched over three billion videos on YouTube. User-generated content attracted 69 million visitors in 2006; that number is expected to jump to over 100 million visitors in 2011, generating $4.6 billion in ad revenue. These are just a sample of some absolutely huge numbers, people. Would it make sense to ignore all of these individuals by disregarding social media, one of the biggest – if not the biggest – consumer influencers? Because let’s be honest: consumers trust other consumers more than they trust any advertisement your creative minds could possibly think of.
HubSpot, now one of the leading internet marketing companies in the country, was a no-name startup just two years ago; it got to where it is now through the use of social media marketing tools like blogs and webcasts that deliver honest and useful information to the masses.
And it’s not just start-ups that benefit from social media marketing. Coca-Cola saw sales of Diet Coke skyrocket after they started creating professional-looking videos on YouTube that demonstrated the wonders of adding Mentos to the popular soft drink (and in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch one of the hundreds of videos available).
For further examples, the Internet Advertising Bureau released a study this year on user-generated content and its effects that includes a number of case studies similar to the ones above (and does, in fact, mention the whole Diet-Coke-and-Mentos thing). It’s only about fifteen pages long, and well worth a read.
In short, social media is everything ‘old media’ is not: fluid, transparent, consumer-driven, and open to conversation and collaboration. Remember: it’s only too late to embrace the ‘new’ when you realize your competitors have run you right out of business by doing it first.