Year after year, everywhere we turn, we're told it's important to engage in social media marketing. Forbes magazine last year ran an article predicting an upcoming Web 2.0 tipping point, and suggested that CEOs should be using Facebook and Twitter to build a more customer-centric business as well as learn from their suppliers and employees. It seems the publication's foresight was in perfect focus, as 66 percent of marketers worldwide now expect to invest in social media marketing this year.
Certainly, there's some degree of lemming-like mentality at work: when one's competitors and peers are all engaged with the space, it can be difficult to find a reason not to do the same. There's also an immense amount of pressure from publishers and research firms to participate in social media - but to their credit, there's also mounds of data substantiating the importance of involving one's brand with social sites. As Internet users spend more time on social sites and networks - 82 percent more in December 2009 than the previous year - and brands explore new ways in which to engage this active audience, the urgency to make one's mark through marketing and advertising is greater than ever.
Two recently released research reports on social media marketing can help. They've found the tangible value in maintaining a social media presence, and are helping marketers and media buyers obtain it.
The first is a study executed by custom market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies that reveals consumers are considerably more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on Facebook and Twitter, as well as to recommend that brand to friends. Among consumers polled, 51 percent of Facebook users and 67 percent of Twitter users said they are more likely to buy from the brands they "friend" or follow, while 60 percent of Facebook users and 79 percent of Twitter users are more likely to recommend those brands to others.
Given the focus on customer retention and customer relationship management that comes part and parcel with social media, it can be difficult to judge how social efforts affect a business's bottom line. Knowing that participating in Facebook and Twitter can directly influence sales is something marketers can really sink their teeth into. But there's another reason to leverage these sites, and that's how consumers might perceive your brand if you don't. The study also found that Internet users now expect businesses to have "some digital face - whether it's on FB or Twitter," otherwise the opinion may be that they are "not really with it or in tune with the new ways to communicate with customers."
Of course, getting involved with social media isn't limited to creating a Facebook page or Twitter account. There are more reasons than ever to advertise on social sites, one of them being that publishers and other advertisers have already done much of the leg work for you. Reports like that released by research firm Psychster, Inc. and Allrecipes.com, the largest food-related social site, are helping media buyers to gauge which social media ad formats are likely to work best - prior to launching their campaigns.
The new report assessed participants' reactions to seven different ad types related to social sites: banners, newsletters, corporate profiles with fans and logos, corporate profiles without fans and logos, "get" widgets, "give" widgets, and sponsored content. Of the ad options presented, respondents indicated that they would be most likely to buy products from a brand with a corporate profile with fans, as well as recommend that brand to friends.
Sponsored content ads, meanwhile, were most likely to incite a click and prompt interaction, but scored low for purchase intent and viral recommendations. Banners were most viewed as advertising; this format ranked fourth out of the seven options for triggering a purchase, and last for prompting interaction and a click.
Early adopters and new social media marketers alike stand to gain from reports such as these, designed as they are to positively impact current and future campaigns. They shouldn't be the sole reason why you're investing (or thinking about investing) in social media. But they certainly make an already attractive medium look even more appealing - and go a long way toward proving those predictions right.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
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