Social Media and the Marketing Opportunity

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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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. I agree!!! 🙂

    Thanks for the kinds words about HubSpot. We’re huge believers in social media, blogging and SEO combined… “inbound marketing”. It really has propelled our growth. Without inbound marketing, we would be spending a lot more money for lower returns, and we’d be growing a lot slower.

  2. “Let’s be honest: consumers trust other consumers more than they trust any advertisement”

    I think this is key, but raises the question, how long before the other shoe drops? As more companies turn to social media as an advertising strategy, we’re bound to see some type of backlash amongst consumers when they start to notice that a blog site is nothing more than a marketing stream for a given product/company. Not to say this isn’t an avenue worth persueing for people; I was looking at some announcements of KDE 4.1 (an open source desktop environment) and was surprised they didn’t offer any video walkthroughs of thier desktop, just screenshots. Heck, even Paris Hilton understands how important YouTube is. Still, I know I’ve had some negative feelings when I run across advertising only blogs, or see blog comments that are nothing more than advertisments, so I think the huge upsides we’re seeing now are largely influenced by a lack of saturation in this area.

  3. Ingrid, this is a great post!
    @ Robert – you bring up a very good point. I think this is precisely why corporate blogs must necessarily provide useful content. If you want to attract (and maintain) readership you must provide value. Blogs that overtly plug a product or service will not stand the test of time. Blogs that have real substance will.

  4. Thanks Ingrid for a crystal clear explanation of how importance blogs are in the field of SEO as well as in Social Media. I too agree that blogs should be informative and well maintained in terms of quality. Apart from all these daily updates are also required.

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