Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 3369
, Published on 20 November 2013
For the music business, social networking is brilliant. Just when you think it's doom and gloom and you have to spend millions of pounds on marketing and this and that, you have this amazing thing now called fan power. The whole world is linked through a laptop. It's amazing. And it's free. I love it. It's absolutely brilliant. - Simon Cowell
Have you ever visited social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or LinkedIn? Do you have aspirations of starting your own business but have reservations about making the final jump thinking about the huge marketing expenditures? If the answer is yes, then you are in the best possible place.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING?
In layman terms, social media is nothing but a tool through which you can maintain a large network of connections. It allows people to create and share information and if the content is good, it sometimes even becomes viral. As Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, said, “We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people”.
Image Courtesy: Ohmega1982, freedigitalphotos.net
It all started with SixDegrees.com which lasted from 1997 to 2001 based on the Web of Contacts model. It was taken a step further by Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. based on the social-circles network model. The power of social networking is that it keeps on expanding a dynamic loop, adding more nodes (people) on to the network. Effectively the world had shrunk due to the power of social media.
Social media marketing effectively refers to gaining more website traffic or, in short, attention through social media websites. Corporations have started using social media to target more people and have a wider reach. They focus on delivering content which is later passed on from user to user. It seems to resonate with users since the content is from a trusted source. In short, social media marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing focusing on earning media rather than paying to the media.
HOW CAN YOUR BUSINESS BE TRANSFORMED?
Social media networks are very useful in building brand recognition, cultivating communities, having more exposure for your products, gaining some authority in your respective fields, influencing your followers and gaining significant website traffic. Over the years, it has slowly transformed the working of business, right from established brands to emerging start-ups. Some have failed in adopting it but a majority of the companies which have tried social media have become very successful. It has even become an integral part of their marketing strategies.
Social media has been a major turning point for entrepreneurs who cannot market their products otherwise due to lack to capital. For example, MyHauteCloset became a huge hit through Instagram. Milysan Troche, a well-known stylist, began posting pictures of her fashion forward outfits on Instagram and slowly women with similar tastes started asking her to post more pictures. The number of followers slowly increased to 38,000 and she was forced to create MyHauteCloset.com to manage her followers. But the major advantage Milysan had was that she even found suppliers through her page on Instagram and emails. Women who wanted to purge their closet of unwanted designer items started mailing her and this made her job easy. Imagine managing the entire supply chain through social marketing at such low costs. Nearly 100% of her clients are followers of her page on Instagram. "They're intelligent, always socially connected and trust someone they believe to be their peer who is in constant communication with them", Troche said. In a similar manner, ShopExcessBaggage.com, a women’s multi-designer offering merchandise at discounted prices, and RequiredFlare.com, an accessory boutique, became a huge hit in the market through Instagram.
It has even transformed industries like agriculture, which has often been blamed for “being behind the times”. The very thought of agriculture and social media, brings up Farmville, a famous Zynga game on Facebook. However, the roots of agriculture and social media, run deeper than Farmville. A 2011 study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation revealed that out of 98% farmers who had internet access, around 76% of them use social media. The main revelations for these farmers were that social media acted as a medium for education, a platform for having discussions and kick starting new developments or technologies. One such popular development was creating a mobile application for farmers to communicate with their consumers. Further discussions on the social media like Twitter gave an insight into the industry. Some farmers even revealed that they were not aware of the tangible business benefits that were provided by these digital tools.
Another advantage of social media is that it can also be used to resurrect dying professions. G Rajendran, a popular artist in south India and owner of Tanjore Oviyam, used the power of Google to revive the languishing art of Tanjore paintings. Using a global theme, “The web is what you make of it”, Google launched a campaign and the sales of paintings slowly started increasing. Today Rajendran has revived his family business by not even spending lavish amounts on TV ads and newspapers.
Even well-established brands like Proctor & Gamble have used the social media to good effect to revive some of their dying products like Spice. The made their product more relevant to the current generation by addressing the brand to its “manly man” equity. Take the example of Best Buy which is slowly becoming more than an electronic chain. They launched a Twitter program called Twelpforce in which they offer advice to customers who post tweets regarding purchase of electronics. Even Ford has regained lost ground by using social media. They gave free rides to around 100 indie agents publicly sharing their experiences with the car. They achieved their aim with a mere budget of $5 million, which has traditionally cost millions.
At the outset it appears that marketing is cost-less through social media. However, while some tools in the social media are free, some tools and people operating them come with a price tag. The current trend in the market, right from start-ups to popular agencies, is to identify the target audience and your goals, test all possible methods, choose the best methods and later go for paid tools to amplify the effects. However, for starters, blogs, using social media to build a robust fan base, having a small community to have a solid word-of-mouth marketing, creating videos, capable of becoming viral, on Youtube, etc. are some means of having low-cost marketing strategies. “Business has only two functions - marketing and innovation”, Milan Kundera.
For established brands which have lost their market shares, some of the advanced marketing strategies like integrating offline and online advertising, adapting their messages according to the social media platform, organizing contests & discounts, etc. are ways of regaining lost ground. For example, each social media platform has its own ecosystem and some messages which are acceptable on Twitter might be considered as spam on Facebook.
Creating a social media presence is easy. The major difficulty arises in how you use your community. Taking advantage of some of the above mentioned strategies can help in building communities and make your marketing strategies more effective. “There’s never been a better time to be in advertising, and there’s never been a worse time”, Aaron Reitkopf, North American CEO of digital agency Profero. The major advantage of today’s social media is that it can be used at low costs but the disadvantage is that it is open for all, making it much more competitive. Unless you use it wisely, you can very well forget about transforming or even starting your business.
This article has been authored by Arun Kumar M from IIM Ahmedabad