Social Media – Too Big for Marketers to Ignore
Social media encompasses digital platforms and apps dedicated to online communities of users, which allow people to engage with other people, events and brands in order to share information, personal messages, ideas or other content in a wide variety of ways. This sharing may be by posting comments, images or video; or by “friending,” liking, following or resending others’ posts. Social media makes it easier for users to join and be in such a community and communicate with each other on a more public and widespread scale.
Since social media emerged over two decades ago, it has expanded and evolved dramatically, and the growth of its use has been explosive and staggering.
Social media is now an integral part of people’s daily lives and a global phenomenon. A 2014 Gallup survey showed that 72% of U.S. adults use social media channels, most using it at least several times a day.
In 2012, the Washington Post reported that research showed Americans spent 121 billion minutes on social media sites in July 2012, equivalent “…to about 230,060 years spent posting, liking and tweeting.” Global Web Index reported last November Facebook had 1.35 billion active users; and in the previous 6 months, Tumblr’s active user base grew by 120% and Pinterest’s overall member base grew by 57%.
The 2014 Gallup report states that in one day:
- Facebook users post 4.75 billion items of content;
- Twitter users send 400 million tweets;
- Instagram users “like” 1.2 billion photos; and
- YouTube users watch 4 billion videos
The various on-line social media communities represent a vast number of potential consumers in all demographic groups around the world. These communication channels are much too big a phenomenon for marketers to ignore. However, there are clearly specific challenges in trying to effectively access consumers and actually generating leads through social media.
Variety of Formats
There are many different platforms and apps in the social media universe, using a variety of formats. Some are quite large communities; others are smaller and the interests are narrowly defined. Some of the well-known and highly used sites are Facebook (pages and friends); Twitter (tweets of 140 characters); YouTube (videos); Pinterest (pins as on a bulletin board); Instagram (pictures); LinkedIn (professional networking); and Tumblr (microblogs). Others include Slide Share (presentations, PowerPoints, PDFs, webinars); Snapchat (photo sharing that disappears); and even user forums.
A Presence in Social Media
Many companies already have a presence on a social media site, a company Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile or YouTube video upload. The goal is that the presence will organically grow and expand, gaining more views, more likes, more followers, more re-tweets or re-blogs which in turn will translate into generating leads for the company.
Many of the social media sites have sought out ways to generate revenues from their activities and offer paid promotions, which allow marketers to get their content increased prominence in front of the target audience or exposure to a larger audience. These programs include Facebook ads, Twitter promoted tweets (expanded tweets with Lead Generation Cards); highlighted or “Pinned” Tumblr posts; LinkedIn ads, Pinterest promoted “pins” and others.
The purpose of a company’s presence on the social media sites is to promote brand recognition and eventually generate prospects and leads who move into the sales cycle. This is done by creating a loyal following through a continuing presence, developing trust, getting traffic to the company’s website and capturing email addresses.
Many companies have approached social media sites like Facebook in effect as a company website with a hard sell. They have focused on increasing numbers of fans, friends, followers or likes, hoping to thereby create a solid marketing channel generating leads, and measuring success by these raw numbers.
Some companies have found this “quantity over quality” approach not to be effective and are rethinking this strategy, recognizing it requires connection and ongoing engagement with the community in order to build the relationship and trust which will result in actual lead generation. It is crucial to pick communities in which brand fits, target a specific audience and deliver appropriate content.
Managing and Measuring
If a company pursues an active social media presence, particularly across multiple sites, software and analytic tools may help with the formidable tasks of managing and measuring these activities. These tools might help manage a company’s social media presence by scheduling and staggering content throughout the day; sharing a message or specific content among various platforms or apps at same time; or using analytics to optimize the right message to the right audience at the right time. They may measure data such as how many people are being reached; tracking clicks; whether the target audience is engaging back; and gathering data from feeds to determine when the target audience is most likely to view latest uploads. These metrics are critical to assess the effectiveness of the program in lead generation.
The use of social media is clearly poised for continued expansion in the future, particularly given the trends of rapid increase in mobile use. The potential customer base is enormous – far too large with far too much opportunity for marketers to ignore.