Social media as a marketing strategy has made so many advancements in the past 12 months that it is hard to keep track. The online marketing space has redefined how companies brand themselves, communicate with customers, and allocate marketing dollars. Obviously, the economy is pushing businesses towards more cost-effective and measurable marketing.
I have said it before, but transparency is the new norm…the old days of companies hiding behind their “big brand” are over. Companies that are engaging in social media are committing to real customer interaction and showing who they really are as a brand and as a team. Here are three ways that social media is changing the face of marketing and branding.
Fusion Between Marketing, Advertising, and Customer Relations
The most successful social media campaigns combine all online and offline marketing efforts and truly engage the audience. The companies that use these strategies effectively are fully committed and spend considerable time on these initiatives. Once a campaign gains momentum and is tied into all marketing efforts, the social platforms (i.e. Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) become real communication tools. The communication can then range from providing FREE information and valuable content (i.e. blogs) to promotions special offerings. More importantly, the platforms become customer relationship management tools.
I like to be careful about how we define “branding” as it applies to marketing and advertising. Sometimes branding can be thought of as that marketing strategy with an indefinable ROI. Actually, it is of course much more important. These days it doesn’t take just good advertising or PR to brand your company. Many businesses now start with the social web first and think about investing in advertising and PR later. They do this for a few reasons. First, advertising and PR cost money and budgets are tight. Second, usually, their customers are in fact online and engaged in social media so that is where they can get in front of them quickly and easily. Third, it is targeted and can be measurable (but we’ll talk about that more in a minute.
Once a business begins social media they should engage everyone in the company to contribute. A company’s brand shouldn’t be just a recognizable logo or fancy advertising…it should be about the team of people driving the business. In the end, the success or failure will depend on the management and the team. We are seeing executives come out from behind the curtain and engage the social communities. And guess what, customers love it! If the President of Ritz Carlton is a regular blogger and uses Twitter, that should tell us something.
Cost Effective – Targeted – Measurable
Just like any other marketing strategy, Internet marketing and social media should be designed to support a company’s business goals. Online marketing channels like SEO and social media are not only complementary to one another but show a true, long-term commitment to business growth. Strategies like this are more in line with business development than “marketing” really. One of the main attractions of course to online marketing (whereas many used to be skeptical) is its economic value. The days of expensive print ads and $20K per month on PR are over for most companies. Now, every penny needs to be accounted for and advertising needs to show a direct return.
One of the key ways that Internet marketing and social media are more cost-effective is because it is targeted. The traditional media model is designed for you to spend a lot of money and hope you hit your target audience. If you are not getting in front of your customers, either change vendors or spend more…that’s about it. With social media marketing, an effective campaign starts first with defining the audience. There are many great social media tools out there to help plan and manage campaigns, track results, etc. The bottom line though with measuring results should be in the analytics. All social media efforts should tie in with the company website and gradually build traffic and conversions.