6 Ways Social Media Can Enhance Your Business

Social media is the new face of the Web. Just as the Internet revolutionized information sharing during the 1990s, social media is radically altering how people communicate and share information today. If you want to succeed on the Web, a solid social network presence is required. Search engines like Bing and Google have recognized the power of social media, opting to include updates from Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites in their search results. Optimizing your business for social media is quickly becoming a must to gain top SEO ranking.

Here are some of the ways the power of social media can help your business:

  • Understand your audiences: Social media facilitates direct one-on-one interaction with your target audiences. This can help you better understand their needs, enabling you to develop more effective, targeted marketing strategies.
  • Enhance brand awareness: Social media can help you communicate your brand identity and create awareness among your audience. The more that people have a credible image of your brand, the more likely it is that they will keep your business top of mind when they evaluate products and make purchase decisions.
  • Promote your products and services via word of mouth: Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing channel. Because of the personal nature of the communications between individuals, it’s generally true that product information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility. If one happy customer makes a favorable comment about your company or its products and services, many other people will notice and are likely to share the information with others.
  • Keep your audiences up to date about your company: People probably don’t visit your Web site every day, but they definitely engage via their social networks on daily basis. To keep your audience updated about the latest events and happenings in your company, it’s important to make the information available on social networks in addition to updating the news/current events section of your Web site.
  • Manage your reputation: You can track social media channels to see what’s being said about your company and its products and nip potential problems in the bud. (See #2 in 5 Steps to Developing a Meaningful Social Media Strategy.) The nature of the back and forth dialogue on social networks enables you to engage and turn around negative reviews and comments — this communicates that you listen to your customers and value their input, and acts to enhance your reputatuion.
  • Share your content virally: When you share something on social networks, it’s not just your immediate connections who read it. If they like it, they will spread it to their networks as well, which increases your reach to a much larger audience. From sharing a link on Twitter, posting a a story of Facebook, or bookmarking on Digg, Delicious, or Reddit, social media has the power to spread your content on massive scale.

How are you using social media to enhance your business and drive its growth?

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New Socialnomics Video: Social Media ROI

The folks at Socialnomics have just released another amazing video: Social Media ROI. It offers some terrific examples of how companies and organizations are leveraging social networks to drive business growth and brand awareness. It lays out the case for social media engagement and how it can help you achieve success.

Marketers continue to struggle with how to measure social media. Instead of trying to determine Return on Investment, they need to quantify a new kind of ROI:  Return on Involvement.

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Beaten to the Tweet: Twitter Cybersquatters Have Hijacked Brands

Brandjacking is alive and well on Twitter.

Remember this phenomenon in the 90’s? The world’s largest marketers were racing to define an Internet presence, only to discover that squatters had already registered their brand names as domain names and were scuttling their messaging.

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Image by Yu^2 via Flickr

It’s happening again, only this time it’s happening on Twitter. Many of the largest brands in the world have discovered that they can’t use their own corporate names because they’ve already been scooped up by people who aren’t affiliated with their companies.

Here are just a few:

The list goes on — you get the idea.

Especially in these tough economic times, it makes sense that brands would want to engage with their customers on the popular free platform  Brands need to be where their customers are, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they are using Twitter. According to the latest data from ComScore, Twitter had 19.2 million users in October. And since budgets are being cut left and right, embracing Twitter is a wise business decision.

What’s a brand to do?

According to AdvertisingAge:

Twitter’s head of commercial products, Anamitra Banerji, said, “We understand brands’ frustration when it comes to account verification. We are working on ways to make the process easier and faster …. Given the volume of requests we receive, sometimes it might take a little while to close requests but we are trying to improve that too.” The social-media service, he said, is “[working] with business owners extensively to ensure that they own their trademarks/brand names on Twitter as our terms of service doesn’t allow name-squatting or impersonation.”

In August, Co-founder Biz Stone said that Twitter was in the first phase of rolling out commercial accounts, to goal being to lure businesses to pay for premium services. He also talked about creating new application programming interfaces (APIs) to create a “commercial layer” on top of the network. If brands are unhappy with Twitter’s network oversight, why would they choose to pay for premium services? Trust comes before monetization, yes?

The folks at Twitter should make it a priority to straighten all of this out and suspend the squatters’ accounts. How else to gain the respect and confidence of the businesses that figure prominently in Twitter’s quest for profitability?

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Discounts Drive Users to Engage With Brands on Social Networks

As brands scramble to define themselves on social networks and connect with their customers, a new survey indicates that what consumers want from brands in this new engagement model is some old fashioned marketing: Good deals and customer service.

The results of Razorfish’s annual survey of 1,000 “connected consumers” was recently released, and it contains some interesting data. The sample group was about 50/50 male/female and the respondents all live in ten major U.S. cities and cover four major age groups:

Based on previous Razorfish consumer research, we have found that these “connected consumers” roughly mirror the U.S. population with broadband access. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 63% of all Americans today have a high-speed Internet connection, up from only 55% in 2008. This translates to roughly 200 million people, based on a July 2009 population estimate from the CIA World Factbook (total population 307,212,123, July 2009 estimate).

The survey found that the primary reason for “friending” a brand on Facebook or MySpace is for access to exclusive deals and discounts:

More than 25% said they followed a brand on Twitter:

FEED09_Chart-Q25

And 43% of those who follow brands on Twitter do so because of exclusive discounts or offers. That trumps being a current customer (24%), interesting/entertaining content (23%), and customer service/support (4%):

Following a brand on Twitter usually keeps it top of mind when making a future purchase decision:

FEED09_Chart-Q26

The report references Starbucks, the most popular brand on Facebook (by virtue of a promo that offered coupons for free ice cream and pastry). Whole Foods is the leading brand on Twitter, with more than 1.5 million followers. It gained its huge following by offering shopping tips and weekly specials.

Comcast has a great reputation for leveraging Twitter as a CRM tool thanks to the fabled efforts of Frank Eliason, Senior Director of Comcast National Customer Service. Virgin America and Zappos have also received high marks for using Twitter for customer realtions.

The takeaway:

Consumers are obviously very willing to engage with brands via social media. As social networks grow and attract more users, this will continue to be the case and undoubtedly gain more traction.

Brand marketers themselves need to become more engaged and give their friends and followers special offers — pushing out content and hoping consumers hop on the bandwagon isn’t nearly as effective. As social networks become more advanced and brands figure out how to leverage them, there will be many interesting new opportunities for marketing interaction.

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Amazon Turns to Twitter to Boost Affiliate Marketing. Is it Spam?

The U.S.’s dominant e-tailer is trying to do something that even Twitter hasn’t figured out how to do: Make money on Twitter.

Last week, Amazon contacted members of the Amazon Associates program to announce a new feature: Integration with Twitter. When Associates log into their accounts, they now see a “Share on Twitter” button on their Site Stripe (a  toolbar at the top of the page). Clicking the button creates a tweet that includes a  shortened URL to send out of all of their followers. The monetization angle is that the shortened link includes the associate’s Amazon referral code, enabling the Associate to earn as much as 15% from any resulting sales.

amazon-twitter

Twitter users love to click on links, so this feature could boost the earnings of popular Tweeters with large lists of active followers.

The tweet text can be posted as-is or edited. If the tweet is edited, there really is no way to tell that the Twitter status update is an actual ad.

Here’s something to think about in light of the FTC’s recent efforts to crack down on sponsored blog endorsements: Many blogs (not all) disclose that they will earn money when they offer you a referral link. Even if they want to, this will be difficult for Associates to do on Twitter because of its 140-character limit. Will the folks at the FTC attempt to track the hidden advertising explosion-in-the-making on Twitter?

Before editing:

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After editing:

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Is it spam or hidden advertising or both?

It’s product placement, Internet-style. Subliminal advertising is rampant on TV (Don Draper in his London Fog coat on Mad Men, anyone?), and now it’s going to show up in Twitter streams.

As to the spam characterization, it’s easy to stop following someone who goes too “commercial” for your taste. But if you follow a lot of people, you might have to wade through a high volume of self-serving, deceptive tweets about any of the millions of products available on Amazon. And the commercial tweets will be difficult to differentiate from the usual flow of status updates on Twitter — you might not be sure until you click on the link — and you may not know definitively if it was really an ad or if the poster was trying to be helpful and point out something interesting.

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Ford Motor’s Scott Monty on Big Brands and Social Media

A hot topic at recent industry events has been the question of big brands and how they can use social media. Ford Motor Company is one brand, however, that has not let that question become an obstacle. WebProNews spoke with Scott Monty, the Head of Social Media at Ford, who explained how the company first became involved with social media just a few years ago. Their efforts began as a hobby, but he helped them develop an approach to incorporate social into their overall business strategy.

(Via WebProNews)

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Saturday Social Marketing Round-Up

Here are some great stories from this week about social marketing:

Integrating Social Media Into Marketing (Social Media B2B)
A big reason that we hear a lot about the shift to social media is that organizations are looking to reduce their marketing costs. Yes, leveraging social media can be far less expensive then a large scale print advertising campaign.

Marketing Generation Gap Threatens B2B Survival (Words Sell)
When marketing ideas that elude b2b leadership are patently obvious to young adults with zero training in marketing – you’ve got yourself a real problem. You’ve got a disconnect between what buyers want and what sellers think buyers want. Or, more precisely, you’ve got a disconnect between what buyers want and what sellers think they themselves want when they’re buying.

Why Are Marketers So Bad At Measuring Social Media? (And How Can They Get Better?) (Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals)
The fact is, social media marketers are drowning in a sea of metrics. Every social platform and vendor offers its own metrics, and there are literally hundreds of ways to measure the success of social initiatives. With so many numbers to choose from, and so little insight into which metrics are important, it’s not surprising that marketers feel overwhelmed.

Ten Things Social Media Can’t Do (Advertising Age)
Amid the endless pronouncements about social media — often shortened to “social” these days by consultants trying to sound like they know what they are talking about — is the reality that social media is not a solution, or a sure bet.

How Twitter and Social Marketing Will Save the Movies (Jim Louderback)
Social media marketing was behind the biggest movie you’ve never heard of, the amazing Paranormal Activity, which took in $22 million last weekend, making it the highest grossing flick of the week, nearly double its closest competitor.

Best of 2009 (So Far): Social Media Marketing, Part 2 (MyVenturePad)
Social media, and discussions of its value for PR and marketing, have become ubiquitous. But which social media tool do marketers find most valuable?

Marketing in social media not off-putting to users (BizReport)
More research has added weight to the assertion that social network users are receptive to brand marketing messages in their various social environments and are happy to recommend products or services themselves.

10 Essential Social Media Blogs You Should Definitely Bookmark (Inspired Mag)
The social blog scene is getting pretty crowded these days and we cannot just stand here without releasing a new list. So give it up for the coolest social media & social marketing blogs out there.

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