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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

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Networking sites for marketing

Traditional companies are those which sell traditional products and services and service them through traditional channels. These Companies most probably would be still relying on traditional media channels like TV and newspapers for advertising and promoting their products and brands.

For these companies, the social media marketing is still a big taboo, a strict no.

The reasons for not using social networking sites for their marketing purposes could be that they don't know about the social networking potential-value it can generate(why to use?) or don't know how to use it. It thus becomes important to first go to the basics and understand and evaluate them.

Value of the social networking sites

Size Matters: The social networking sites or the social media networks have become the number one traffic generator in the www for sometime now, with growth rates reaching double figures on avg. Check this out:- Traditional companies are those which sell traditional products and services and service them through traditional channels. These Companies most probably would be still relying on traditional media channels like TV and newspapers for advertising and promoting their products and brands. For these companies, the social media marketing is still a big taboo, a strict no. The reasons for not using social networking sites for their marketing purposes could be that they don't about the social networking potential-value it can generate(why to use?) or don't know how to use it. It thus becomes important to first go to the basics and understand and evaluate them.

Right Audience: It's possible to clearly identify the segments of users that need to be approached. Hundreds of social media sites instantly provide the user profiles. "The user profile is generally what distinguishes social networking sites from other social media platforms.

It helps set the stage for building relationships with people who share the same interests, activities, or personal contacts, as opposed to primarily disseminating or digesting information feeds.

This also means social networks enable companies to invite audiences to get to know its brand in a way that traditional forms of marketing or advertising can't." (Ref 1).

Even the sites have specific group or user purposes. There could be industry specific sites like Research GATE, which is meant for researchers in the science or technology field. There could be professional sites like Linked In or free for all sites like Facebook.

Thus deepening upon the 3V's, the company can decide which site to choose to promote itself and which customers to target within the chosen social media.

The traditional companies' even if does not want to reach out to all, it must reach out the influencer, who matters to their business

Communication: Social media is perhaps the most powerful media for the word of mouth communication strategy for advertisement. With millions of users hooked online and constantly communicating with each other. The open technology allows marketeers to know who is talking to whom and what they are talking about. Once the company is able to implant the right communication in these media, the communication can spread very fast and it enjoys lot of credibility and trust as it is passed on by a know person. By allowing people to do the talking, the revenues can sore quickly.

However a traditional company would like to have a direct controlled communication with his customer and would not want to use social media for the fear of loosing control on communication and possibility of negative communication.

 
Rank	Site		February 08	February 09	% Growth

1	Twitter.com	475,000		7,038,000	1382%
2	Zimbio		809,000		2,752,000	240%
3	Facebook	20,043,000	65,704,000	228%
4	Multiply	821,000		2,394,000	192%
5	Wikia		1,381,000	3,758,000	172%

Source: Nielson Netview

The fact is that the consumer, who is so much hooked on to the social media, will share his experience on the web. Hence it's better for traditional companies to participate in social media communication rather then stay out of it. This way it stands a chance of responding back to negative communication, if at all.

Fast visibility and presence: Social media can be used effectively to improve the visibility and enhance presence and brand awareness amidst the targeted customers. A good social media profile is highly visible in multiple channels.

Visibility will be reliance on participation levels, and becoming a gateway for others is an important factor for building brand familiarity and relevance.

Most traditional companies would like to stay away from social media but there is no harm in having a profile or a link at least, which most of the social networking sites provide for. We as individuals do also have these profiles.

Ultra low cost strategy All it takes is to engage content writers, incur initial cost on creating videos and some recurring cost on blog responders. With the right communications, millions of people can be reached out, either directly or through word of mouth or through media sites creating links to your sites.

A fully developed plan for the social networking activity is however a pre-requisite to approaching a social media site.

Strategies like which site to approach, what kind of messages to give and whom to approach, needs to be formulated in advance.

Exploiting social media for marketing purposes

Having established the need for the traditional companies to use the social media for their marketing purposes, we now look into how this can be best done.

Social media strategy: First and foremost formulate a clear strategy. What are the requirements and needs? Whom do I target, what benefits are we looking for? Who should control or lead the social media management, which social media network do I use and Why? What is the communication I need to make? These are some of the basis questions which need to be addressed first. There are traditional companies like Ford and Tesco which are using the social media very effectively.

Integration: Social media marketing will have to an integral and additional part of the traditional marketing methods. Both Medias have to co-exist together.

The company needs to find out which part of their marketing can be better served by the social media. The company may find that the blogs are generating more traffic and public interest than the company website.

The game is to ensure that the consumers get more channels to find the company. It's important to understand the consumer behaviour on interactions. Some would prefer phones and some blogs. Accordingly funnel the interest.

Selling vs. engaging: Social media is not about selling products. It's about engaging the customers. It's about relationship building rather than offerings. The increased level of interaction and engagement can be done in a number of ways. There need to be enhancement of presence through company blogs where there are news on the products, reviews, instruction contents, links to company websites and fan groups.

Then the interactions happen through the Facebook and twitter where there could be live interactions, brand awareness articles. Pod cast thorough Youtube can bring great visibility.

Finally what matters is what the web users are communicating about your products. Word of mouth communication gives tremendous publicity.

Technology Integration: This is where most of the traditional company fears to trade. But it's important to understand that using social media tools on a stand alone basis is only a half job done.

For taking the full benefit out of it , Facilitate interface websites and various mobile and desktop applications.

Incorporate Business tweeting tools like CoTweet/Hootsuite provides the following advantages :-

* Ability for a team to work on a single profile

* Provides analytics and trends

* Integrates company and suppliers networks including archival of all text messages, post your updates simultaneously to Facebook, Linked

* Provides instant email alerts on user interactivity

The offering and usage of a particular brand can contribute towards the necessary differentiation of it.

Fine example of 'smart corporate twittering sense' is a key differentiation factor. Popular business example is American low-cost Airline service JetBlue having direst customer complain service through its airline staff that has more than 1.1 million followers since its launch in 2007.

Brand Building: To take the traditional companies out of its mold, the social media companies help them in brand's communication and design in social media context.

Businesses strive to make their brands unique, under the competitive economic environment. Twitter addresses this through different dimensions of interaction between a brand and its stakeholders.

Brand equity includes brand strength (addressing brand differentiation and relevance) and brand stature (addressing brand esteem and knowledge).

 

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