Social Media marketing is changing how brands engage with consumers and in the process, shifting the face of marketing like a snowboarder cutting through fresh powder in Lake Tahoe.
Just over a year ago Twitter was considered a non-mainstream micro blogging tool for digerati trendsetters and celebrities and many considered Facebook to be just a social network for teenagers.
Fast forward to today - brands and companies are using social media to connect directly with their customers and many are bypassing their ad agencies along the way. How the social media landscape has shifted:
- Facebook and Twitter usage via smartphones has grown tremendously, approximately 347% for Facebook and 125% for Twitter users. Take it to the bank, these growth rates will keep accelerating moving forward.
- Facebook now has over 600 million users world wide - I believe they will break the 1 billion mark by the end of 2011, as do many analysts.
- Facebook is now the most frequently searched term and most visited web site for 2010 based on information just released via Inside Facebook today.
- Twitter’s growth rate continues to move faster than Tiger Woods sponsors in retreat - over 25 Billion Tweets (messages) were sent out in 2010 and over 100 Million people now use Twitter.
- At times the media darlings of social media appear to be Twitter and Facebook. But, ignore LinkedIn at your peril - over 100 million people are connected via LinkedIn, with a new user being added every second of the day 24/7/365.
- Even second tier social networks like Xing (German based) and Viadeo are growing rapidly, with 9 Million users for Xing and 35 Million strong for Viadeo.
What does all this growth mean to your brand and what should you do about it?
- Get on-board the train - social media marketing is moving mainstream and many of your competitors are there. If you expect to succeed with any marketing initiative you want to include a social component.
- Listen to the social web. Today’s informed social-enabled consumer has no hesitation about firing off a Tweet or doing a status update via Facebook that can hale your company as the best thing since a 50% off Groupon coupon at Starbucks to or the worst polluter bar none since BP!
- Branded content is crucial to getting established and growing your brand in the social eco-system. It can be anything from a 140 character Tweet to a two minute video uploaded to YouTube that is complemented via TubeMogul syndication and distribution. Clearly, today’s content experts need a much broader skill set than what has traditionally been considered acceptable.
- If your an executive like Warren Buffett who can barely use email get down to Borders and purchase “Engage” by Brian Solis and “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan, then get warm/fuzzy with a 20-something or the nearest marketing geek and get on/in the social web and communicate. Remember it’s transparent and your no longer in that corporate silo/comfort cocoon.
- If your a large corporate brand (see point 4) you will want to flatten our your company - effective social media marketing should involve your entire team, not just the marketing geeks. The more the better - think HR, Sales, Customer Service, Exec staff, even R&D - the whole enchilada.
- Your messaging can be anytime, anywhere and any place - the freedom is unfettered but social conversations can be like drinking out of the proverbial fire hose.
- Move beyond the community with your social connections. Depending on brand’s focus (consumer or B2B) you will want to motivate your social followers to connect with you via a subscriber list, registration via your site or some other viable call to action. It’s like herding cats - you need compelling content that motivates users to connect with your brand off the social web.
- Have some idea of what’s working and what isn’t with your social media marketing activities. There are a ton of social media monitoring apps out in the marketplace. There are 150 on this Wiki List alone. You don’t need to belly up to the bar with a shiny new VC-backed social media monitoring app from day one. Start with Google Analytics at least and move up the food chain with an additional service or app as your social cred and activity increase.