If one thing’s remained true about marketing, it’s this: Staying on top of emerging trends is crucial. Companies that are willing to embrace new techniques and mediums tend to fare a lot better than those that cling stubbornly to the past. Social media is a prime example. These days, no online business can afford to snub its nose at sites like Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of the industry, some of the top companies are sure to be making effective use of social media. Now more than ever, it’s crucial for businesses to get in on the social media act.
Social Media’s Rise to Prominence
Considering how important social media is today, it’s strange to think that it has only been around for a brief period of time. Ever since the dawn of the Internet, people have looked for ways to connect with one another more easily with technology. When dial-up access first became more readily available, services like Prodigy and CompuServe acted as precursors to today’s Facebook and Twitter. Users communicated with one another through bulletin board systems. Many of those systems, like Usenet, went on to enjoy massive popularity on the Internet.
The first real webpages went live in the mid-1990s. People embraced the new technology, and blogging rose to prominence around 1997. Most agree that the first prominent social networking site was Friends Reunited, a UK site that debuted in 1999. Friendster, another early social networking site, skyrocketed in popularity upon debuting in 2002. The following year, MySpace and LinkedIn were born, and Facebook followed the year after that. When Twitter hit the scene in 2006, the social media revolution was in full swing. Facebook officially surpassed MySpace in 2008, and the world hasn’t looked back since.
Why Social Media is More Important than Ever
In the beginning, it seemed that the most valuable thing about social media was its ability to connect people from far-flung corners of the world. Today, however, successful businesses know better. While sites like Twitter and Facebook continue to be wildly popular with people who want to stay connected, they are increasingly becoming integral parts of today’s most effective marketing strategies. A few examples of the ways in which social media can be used to promote a business include:
- Raise Brand Awareness – In this day and age, a company can’t be successful without cultivating a recognizable brand. Social media makes it easier than ever to do so. By maintaining a consistent message and tone across today’s most popular social media platforms, a company can nurture and grow its brand to make it instantly recognizable to existing customers and prospective customers.
- Enhance Customer Service – By making effective use of social media, a company can dramatically cut back on the number of customer service calls that it has to handle. People are more connected than ever, and companies that are active and engaged on social media sites can address their issues and concerns quickly and easily. When customers know that they will receive fast help by sending a quick tweet, for instance, they come away with a much more favorable impression of a company.
- Make it Personal – Nameless, faceless corporations don’t appeal to everyday people. The strategic use of social media allows businesses to adopt more personalized approaches to marketing. For instance, many companies allow employees to create their own profiles in order to assist customers and respond to questions. Instead of submitting a generic form, people can quickly interact with actual employees.
- Perform Market Research – By reaching out to customers through social media, a company can gain important insight into what they want. This is an affordable and easy way to see how people feel about new products and services. Many companies also run ideas for new products and services past their customers through sites like Twitter and Facebook. Still others use polls and other interactive means to find out how they can improve. In most cases, responses start pouring in instantly, so a company can act quickly to take advantage of changing trends.
- Interact with Customers – The companies that use social media the most successfully are the ones that are the most active. Simply creating a profile and including a link to a main website isn’t enough. Companies that put in the effort to interact regularly with customers through social media tend to enjoy the best results. In the scheme of things, the time and effort that are required to be active on sites like Twitter and Facebook are minimal.
Social Media Done Right
One of the best ways to understand the full potential of social media is by taking a closer look at companies and brands that are using it as effectively as possible. A few of the best examples are highlighted below.
- Caterpillar – After Facebook launched its new timeline format, many companies balked. Some made half-hearted attempts to get on board with the new format. Caterpillar, on the other hand, completely embraced it. As a result, the construction and manufacturing company is approaching 100,000 likes on the popular social media site. Its timeline goes all the way back to the 1800s, and the company routinely posts new photos of its machines and equipment. A quick glance at Caterpillar’s timeline and activity feed reveal that the company is committed to engaging regularly with its customers. These efforts are clearly paying off well.
- Ford – Ford Motor Company is a prime example of the beauty of seamlessly integrating social media into an overarching marketing campaign. Ford maintains social media profiles on popular sites like Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t stop there, though, because it also features content from those sites right on its main website. Through its blog, which is also featured on social media sites, Ford engages visitors by asking for feedback and actually responding to it. There’s no need to be a huge corporation to pull off this kind of feat.
- Zappos – This popular shoes and clothing retailer is known for its witty, engaging posts on social media. Zappos employees are encouraged to create their own accounts on Twitter, and that’s where the online retailer really shines. Companies that aren’t sure about how to use Twitter should follow Zappos’ lead.
- Cranium – Some would argue that advanced technology is making board games obsolete, but Cranium is bucking the trend. The unique board game maintains a highly active Facebook presence that it uses to share trivia, factoids and other interesting tidbits. Videos and quizzes are also used to keep visitors coming back for more. Cranium’s efforts on Facebook prove that absolutely any type of company can enjoy great benefits by being active on social media.
With hundreds of millions of users, social media is clearly more than a fad. Companies that still haven’t gotten in on the action run the risk of losing out to the competition. If people can’t find a business on sites like Twitter and Facebook, they’re likely to view it as a red flag. Considering the small amount of time and effort that are needed to remain active on social media and the exceptional benefits that arise by doing so, it’s in any company’s best interests to get on board.