From time to time people ask me if social media marketing is really worth it. I’m astonished people still feel this way and wonder what they are doing wrong to prompt them to ask such a question. After all, hasn’t social media proven to be a liberating and equalizing force bringing people together around shared values and ideas? Maybe that sounds idealistic and detached from the business realities of 2013, so I thought I’d share three major objectives social media supports for modern organizations.
Today, the connected consumer requires companies to be “always-on” seemingly at every touch point, but especially in the areas of customer service, support, and marketing. Given the realities of the modern workforce – longer hours and more flexible hours – buyers’ are expecting you to be available when they are and increasingly for B2B and B2C companies this is through social media.
The social era is a tectonic shift in communications and the relationship that develops between companies and their customers. Industry and category leaders will be threatened to maintain their positions by challengers who will use new communication technologies to grow closer to their audience and develop products and marketing more in-sync with consumer desires as expressed online and in business conversations.
The concept of a brand is evolving to include ideas like responsiveness, (cultural) social awareness and increased corporate responsibility. Meanwhile, the cost of mass marketing techniques has become increasingly expensive with diminishing reach thanks to a fragmented media landscape. B2B brands can leverage social media to adapt to the changing times by listening to consumers online, synthesizing and analyzing conversations, and then leveraging insights for business intelligence that result in the development of more agile strategies.
Content Marketing is an inbound and outbound marketing strategy that allows people to understand your company’s value proposition, experience your brand, and evaluate your expertise. Unlike advertising, content marketing for B2B companies is less intrusive and allows for longer, less skeptical conversations and relationships between consumers and companies. Social Media and owned media properties allow consumers to engage with your company in the early stages of their buyer’s journey before entertaining the idea of contacting a sales representative.
With consumers spending 3x more time on social networks and blogs than e-mail, social is a channel that can’t be ignored. While it may not be as transaction oriented as search engine marketing, it does provide an efficient way to acquire prospects and influence them, shaping how they perceive problems and solutions. With the high cost and low performance of most paid media options, companies need to look at growing an audience in the most cost effective manner possible.
Word-of-mouth has always been the most trusted resource of information for consumers and social media is merely a digital form of word-of-mouth, or as some might say word-of-mouth at scale. Innovative social media marketing professionals are leveraging the voices of brand advocates to do their marketing for them. Social media allows for the cultivation of brand champions who are far more effective at conversations and conversions than brands can be.
Intelligence – Market, Consumer, and Business
Social media is a data channel that can tell you about market swings, consumer tendencies and business trends. You have to be plugged in to receive the information. Social media is proving to be a real-time data channel that moves faster than any communications channel companies have used prior. Today, if you’re not monitoring consumers online you’re not learning.
As mentioned earlier, in the social era the winners of the demand economy will be the companies who are responsive to consumers in social media and adapt to meet their needs. The challenge today is listening and responding at scale. As machine learning and clustering technologies improve, predictive analytics along with various types of automation will allow companies to more easily manage a social presence that touches thousands of customers in authentic ways.
Innovative brands are using social media data to develop marketing strategies based on real-time insights. Guided by the voice of the consumer, businesses can now mitigate risk and make more data-driven decisions in areas of marketing previously thought to be the domain of creative or intuition. Performing analytics on consumer behavior in social media allows for smarter planning which results in a more efficient marketing spend.
Social media breaks the marketing paradigm that was built to support broadcast technologies. Smart phones and their ability to receive and distribute large amounts of information, are changing the behavior of consumers, brands and content publishers. The influence of mass marketing techniques has been forever altered by digital technologies. The last 15 years has shown that the result of new media is growing fragmentation of an audience. Add the hyper segmentation of consumers brought on by more companies competing for the share of wallet and you’re left with unprecedented uncertainty about how to market to consumers. No wonder people are still asking is social media marketing worth it.
What do you think? I welcome your comments in the section below. Let me know how you think B2B marketing professionals are leveraging social media well and how you think it can improve.