I've written about social media (networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) a number of times and I've alluded to this thing known as "Social Media Marketing." It's very easy to bandy about this latest marketing catchphrase and not know what anyone is really talking about. I hope to clear up some of the confusion.
Social Media Marketing means using social networks to market brands and drive traffic. Consumers, especially younger people, need to know what they are getting into when they use the social web sites, since experts predict they will be the primary marketing tool of the future. (Personally, I'm not so sure about this.)
As time goes on, the thought is that it will become necessary to use social sites as tools for actual e-commerce. What is social media to us, really? It's just where we "hang out" when we're on line. That's all. We used to hang out in front of the TV. Now, we're spending more time online. So far, it's all been about conversation and sharing. Personally, I am a huge fan of Facebook. It connects me to my family and friends who are geographically too far away for close contact. It allows me to engage with others and feel "connected." On Facebook, I can be involved in the daily lives of more of the people I care about, just as if we were still neighbors, classmates or business associates. For most of us, social media has added an amazing new dimension to life.
On the other hand, as with everything in our capitalistic society, more and more companies are looking to "sell" us things using social media - OUR social media. The question is, are we buying? We've seen this new media become a lot of things to a lot of different people. We are not only chatting with friends and family, we're also sharing pictures, playing games and looking for information and entertainment. I suppose social networks might be helpful when you're trying to make a purchase decision. Like so many things, the debate is really about control. Can we maintain control of our social media? I, for instance, recently became a "fan" of a company (on Facebook) that sells a product/service I like. Am I already in too deep? It's possible. I don't have the answer quite yet but I will let you know.
Could our profiles on Facebook/MySpace/Twitter or LinkedIn be used against us? We can hope not. If a company I am a "fan" of sends me periodic status updates with interesting information, then I think that might be OK. On the other hand, if my Facebook wall starts to look like a newspaper insert, then I am not going to be cool with that. Becoming a "fan" online of any entity, be it manufacturer, brand, product, or TV show, is completely optional. It's your decision - unlike the stack of junk mail you probably receive each week. Did you ask to receive any of that?
The social media marketing revolution is well underway. As a past (and hopefully,future) marketing professional, I choose to actively explore the new media and learn about what motivates its creators and how it is being used. If it's true that control of advertising messages is moving into the hands of consumers, then we need to work together to sort through this online chaos. By lending my voice to the chatter about social media, I hope to help us all navigate the uncharted waters.
In today's social media marketing news
Facebook Connect recently made it easier for webmasters to implement Facebook links on their sites. That's big news. As people spend more time on Facebook, they are actually relinquishing a certain amount of trust to this social network, whether they realize it or not. This means that it's easier to buy from any site that is plugged into Facebook via Facebook Connect. Consumers who were once wary of making purchases online due to security concerns are beginning to get over this fear. Let's face it. Shopping online is easy, convenient and for some, addictive.
According to an Avaya marketing executive, Facebook Connect will allow you to go to a Website like Dell.com and authenticate yourself using your Facebook profile, giving you access to your friends so you can chat about potential purchases. You might say "Hey, Jeff, I’m looking at this fancy laptop and heard you just bought something like it. Would you recommend this one?" Imagine the new doors this opens up for advertisers! At the same time, your buddy is just as likely to steer you away from the purchase. Fascinating! All this change ultimately means positive things for consumers and real challenges for companies. The bottom line is that this is a great time to be a marketing, advertising or PR student. Companies need us now more than ever.
Tune in tomorrow for a review of the Kansas/.38 Special concert (tonight) at the Regional Special Events Center in Murray, KY. For now, it's all just 'Dust in the Wind'...