Like it, love it, hate it, tweet it. Social media has become the ideal way for most people to keep in touch. It is the fastest growing media outlet in the world. In just 5 years, from December 2004 to December 2009, Facebook grew from 1 million users to over 350 million. It took television decades to reach that kind of viewership. And social media continues to grow.
Given the tremendous amount of people who make use of it, marketing companies would be amiss if they didn’t make use of social networking. The idea is simple and cost-effective: spread your message via individual users. What makes it effective?
Let’s illustrate it like this: say there’s a local restaurant at which you’ve never eaten. You see a commercial on television, telling you how good they are. Now, let’s say your trusted friend tells you they’re expensive, dirty and the food isn’t any good. Who do you believe? The answer is obvious.
The fact that people are more likely to believe trusted, third-parties such as friends and relatives, over companies themselves is not lost on marketers. For years they’ve tried to tap into word-of-mouth marketing. Some companies have successfully done so. The problem is that such companies are few and far between. Word-of-mouth advertising is notoriously unreliable.
Thus enters social media. There are many people who enjoy posting about almost everything they do. Including where they shop, eat and hang out. If they happen to find a good deal on something they’ve always wanted, or enjoy a really good meal, one of the first things they’ll do is post about it. And there you have it. Free advertising.
This isn’t the only way companies can make use of social media though. Most companies have a Facebook or Twitter account. This gives both businesses and consumers an easily accessible outlet for communication. It can also provide great advertising opportunities.
In this case, marketers play a little bit of a psychological ploy. Most people don’t think of corporation when they use social media, they think of their friends who also use it. Hence, social media becomes inherently associated with friends, trusted individuals. This association can spill over into interactions with companies. That interaction then feels more personal.
Companies, of course, are not afraid to try mixing in more traditional marketing methods into social media marketing. It seems like you can’t use any free service without there being some form of advertising, from having to watch a commercial before you can watch what you wanted to, to annoying ads that pop-up while you’re in the middle of a game of Angry Birds.
We may wonder why these distracting, annoying methods are still used. The answer is simple: it works. Rest assured, no corporation would invest millions upon millions of dollars in anything, if they didn’t expect to turn a profit.
No matter your opinion on social media, it is here to stay. All marketing companies should be quick to jump on that bandwagon. Less they miss their golden opportunity.