As social media platforms continue to explode in popularity, so do the opportunities, for large corporations and small business alike, to reap the benefits of this capable and cost-effective method of marketing. By utilizing the growing number of social media tools, a business or organization has the ability to reach anyone with an Internet connection, creating increased potential for leads, sales and web traffic through brand recognition and well-defined marketing campaigns.
The primary objective of any good social media marketing campaign should be to first attract the attention of it's audience, and then encourage that audience to participate in the campaign by sharing these materials in their own respective social networks. Because the user has received the marketing material from a trusted third party, instead of directly from the brand or business, the impact or potency of the marketing material is greatly increased.
Social Media allows a business the ability to interact with a customer on an unprecedented level, enhancing brand loyalty, and helping the business to target a very narrow audience. Utilizing tools like Facebook and Twitter, a brand can become part of a users social media experience, and interact with that user on a personal level increasing the chances of a user re-posting the material, thus dispersing the product or message to an ever expanding pool of potential customers. As this process is repeated and the material becomes more widely dispersed, traffic to the business’ website is increased, and brand awareness is rapidly expanded.
Software giant Microsoft provided an excellent example of utilizing social media to increase brand recognition and web traffic in a 2010 campaign promoting it’s web-based search engine, Bing. Microsoft partnered with Zynga, a social networking game developer who created the incredibly popular ‘FarmVille’, a Facebook based farming simulation that allowed users to build and maintain their own virtual farm. When a player performed specific tasks, such as buying items or plowing land, they were rewarded with “farm coins”, the digital currency that allowed the player to purchase upgrades or animals for their farm.
Capitalizing on the game’s staggering popularity, the Bing campaign gave away FarmVille currency to any user who clicked the “Like” button on the Bing Facebook Page. Apart from earning increased brand recognition, Microsoft also saw a significant increase in traffic to the search engine. The campaign was so successful that Forbes Magazine called it the Best Social Media Campaign Ever. This success of this example inspired many companies to follow suit, and today, almost all popular social media based games are in partnership with a product or brand who wishes to expand their influence and customer base.
Success in social media marketing is not limited to big corporations like Microsoft and Starbucks, either. The small business can utilize the powers of social media in relatively similar ways to the corporate giants, because the price of admission to sites like Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is generally free. Consider small business and website builder Moonfruit, who offers users the opportunity to build a personal website for free.
In 2010, Moonfruit utilized it’s blog and discussion forums to interact directly with customers and to answer questions, gain feedback and allow users to share their experiences with the product. They also became active on Twitter, and launched a competition in which users who included #Moonfruit in their tweets would be entered into a daily drawing to win one of ten Apple Macbook Pros. So many users participated that the Moonfruit hash-tag trended above such topics as “Micheal Jackson”, “IPhone” and “Wimbledon”, all of which were top trending topics on Twitter at the time. When the dust settled, Moonfruit had increased traffic to it’s website by a whopping 600 percent, and doubled the number of users signed up to utilize it’s services. Without any significant brand recognition or traditional media campaigns, Moonfruit successfully utilized social media marketing to vastly expand it’s customer base and brand recognition.
New social media tools are being developed every day, with millions of users interacting with them, and any business of any size that wishes to capitalize on them for the purposes of marketing have no excuse not to do so. Such campaigns are cheap, if not free, and the reach of a brand’s message is inexhaustible. Brand recognition is paramount to increased sales, and social media allows even the smallest of companies the opportunity to advertise big, and to a specific target audience. Facebook alone boasts over 850 million users, and Twitter adds another 350 million to the pool of prospective customers.
The Internet has already surpassed television as the largest of advertising markets, and the overwhelming results tied to solid social media campaigns have proven them a worthy tool in producing opportunities for engagement, business development, increased visibility and brand recognition for companies small and large. In this environment, a business that is not utilizing this low/no cost method of direct marketing, alongside a traditional print or media marketing strategy, is missing some of the best marketing opportunities the Internet has to offer.