How social media is changing the rules of brand engagement.
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Until recently, marketing was a one-way, top-down monologue. Companies talked and we listened and, sometimes, bought. The web, with its emphasis on connections, participation, and transparency, has changed all that. Now, consumers talk back—to advertisers and, more importantly, to each other.
Rather than taking a corporate spin on faith, customers are more likely to trust and act on peer endorsements and word of mouth. So how can your company engage in and profit from this conversation? Social media. The new way to talk about the brand experience.
With hundreds of millions of unique visitors, Facebook is the giant of social networking sites. Originally created for college students and teens, the platform connects users (from your former college roommate to the likes of Best Buy, Ford and NBC) to friends, colleagues, user groups and like-minded networks. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is designed for professional networking and business development, with users representing 170 industries. And then there are Nings, smaller, customized niche sites for discrete communities of professionals, hobbyists or groups with narrowly-defined demos or interests.
Like focus groups, networking sites can give marketers an intimate view of their consumers, uncovering insights about target behavior, needs, brand loyalty, product usage, and purchasing trends, all of which can translate into greater market share and revenue.
As with any conversation, you can’t just charge into a site and interrupt with your brand message. Listen first and then engage participants with content that informs, tools that encourage input and features that build trust, goodwill, and referral to their friends on one specific site or across multiple platforms.
The same rule applies to advertising on these networks. Algorithms based on behavioral or demographic targeting may decide on whose pages your ads appear, but your message must seem as though it is directed to only one individual at a time. It must be relevant, responsive and customized to the specific needs and mindset of your consumer.
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