I think that there are some inescapable themes emerging, these are some of my own observations. Individuals are accessing information from a variety of sources to build an information picture of their world.
This has led to a fragmented number of communications channels as new social media is developed almost daily. Although there are a bewildering number of communications channels now available, the same marketing rule of thumb still applies - that only some of the biggest are likely to deliver real ROI.
If you are a business wishing to enter the social marketing space, you need to understand your business/consumer environment. Who your customers are and what they look for – and where they look for it! There was a time when this was a much easier task as the number of information/communication channels was relatively limited, but now the list may be endless and it’s not a level playing field. With Facebook having over 350 million users and growing at a rate of 660,000 per day, it is the biggest social network channel currently in operation.
Twitter has exploded in 2009 as a primary information resource tool and is now acknowledged as critical in developing a brand personality online. The list goes on, however they are not all the same. The tone of voice and how people interact with the various channels is very different, some, such as Facebook, are very social and are used for social interaction, organising nights out and announcing birthdays. Others such as LinkedIn, are seen very much a business network form of Facebook and has a very different feel to the site altogether.
As organisations start to realise the full potential and critical requirements of expressing themselves online in social networks, the issues of management and management resource becomes apparent. We would suggest that you stand back before launching a social marketing campaign and think about the following points:
Choose appropriate channels for your brand and goods. Understanding your clients and how they use these channels is critically important.
Build quality networks that attract and keep the people you want, managing large numbers of people who are not interested in your services can be very time-consuming.
Produce focused content that people find interesting and wish to engage with. You can learn a lot through social discourse with your potential clients.
Make sure your content is appropriate for the channel. This may mean that the work goes into developing the intellectual capital and then is distilled in a number of different ways to make it appropriate for the channel it will be used for. Make sure the process is manageable and sustainable. Building social networks can be very time consuming but can deliver real bottom-line results. This can only be achieved if you pace yourself for the long run.
To summarise, I think that building social networks will become an important part of the marketing communications mix. Understanding how they work for you and having a comprehensive strategy is a critical success factor in achieving the full potential of this exciting channel.