Social Media provides a highly effective channel for businesses and consumers to engage with each other in a real time context. Companies can instantly communicate with customers regarding sales, new products, competitions while customers have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions and receive prompt responses. If used intelligently, Social Media is a great tool businesses can use to obtain valuable insight into the interests and opinions of consumers which is vital for maintaining relevancy. Recently an article was published outlining the 50 Social Media tools that all businesses should use…..this is overkill and the upkeep will inevitably be a drain on company resources. A successful Social Media strategy involves selecting the tools that will best serve your objectives and focusing on developing an intelligent strategy to form a strong foundation and loyal following.
The Beauty Bean, an online Health & Beauty magazine was officially launched in January 2010 and has already seen exponential success for such a young business. Founder & Editor-In-Chief Alexis Wolfer cites Twitter as the main marketing tool she used to build a fan base and create awareness. Alexis says “I think social networking is paramount to any business today - especially a business like The Beauty Bean that has its home on the internet. I have found twitter to be the most useful because of how easily it blurs the boundaries between business owners, celebrities and ‘regular’ people. It allows me to reach out to people directly, respond to their beauty questions and garner their support without having to wait for them to find me.” Alexis initially began tweeting health and beauty tips before The Beauty Bean was launched and found that she quickly gained a strong following. When celebrities such as Serena Williams (Women’s World #1 Tennis Player) & Brooklyn Decker (Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model 2010) began re-tweeting her messages it exposed her business to a much wider audience and enabled her to start building a strong fan base before the site was even launched.
Social Media is not only a great way to keep in close contact with your customers but also to strengthen and grow your business contacts through online networking. Twitter in particular is very useful for business networking due to the ability to re-tweet and give shout outs to people you work with or would like to work with. Alexis agrees saying “ Networking can now take place from my iphone, in bed, at 5am - I no longer need to wait for networking events. Rather, I can network at all times.” The ability to Network 24/7 gives business people the flexibility to build on relationships continually and keep in contact with important influences in their industry at the click of a button from anywhere in the world.
While Social Media opens new and exciting avenues of communication it is important to remember, from a business perspective, if you decide to utilize it as a marketing tool then it should be treated as a marketing tool. As you would with any other channel you must develop a clear strategy and invest resources. Social Media is not for everyone and not every business will necessarily benefit from its use therefore determining the key objectives and developing a strong strategy will ensure that time is well spent, the correct message is being communicated and the information gathered is used intelligently. It is also important to remember that each Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should therefore have a customised strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and strategy development services which is paramount to the success of Social Media as a viable marketing channel. Focusing on incorporating Social Media into the overall Online Marketing Strategy will help to ensure the successful utilization of Social Media tools to the advantage of your business and your consumers.
Maintaining a presence in the Social Media space is key to success. Volkswagon was unsuccessful when attempting to fill a role for a commercial via MySpace because they failed to invest in resources to maintain the page regularly. Other companies have failed in the use of Social Media by not allowing an open dialog with customers. Restricting opportunities for followers to comment on posts and provide feedback defeats one of the key uses of Social Media – gathering real-time wants, needs & expectations of consumers. While Social Media does provide consumers with a public forum to express negative opinion it also provides companies with the opportunity to openly address issues and show that they take action and value consumer opinions and happiness. Some companies fail in the Social Media space by utilizing the tools as an advertising medium rather than for communication which ultimately alienates potential consumers, lacks personality and interaction. Understanding how to best access and communicate with your target audience creates the foundation for any successful strategy. If your strategy involves removing the ‘social’ aspect from Social Media there is clearly a problem!