It is impossible to ignore the influence of social media in today’s culture, but what exactly does this mean for business and how does it impact a company’s brand? Many companies question the value of social media if not directly linked to an increase in sales. However, building brand awareness, increasing social influence and retaining customers are some of the most valuable effects of a well-rounded social media plan.
Large corporations are increasing alliances with social media companies. Foursquare recently announced a nationwide partnership with American Express, offering users special discounts when they pay with AMEX. The startup recently reached 10 million members and also has more than 500,000 merchant accounts. Facebook just announced a partnership with Skype, allowing users to call their friends directly from their Facebook page. Google also has entered the social media arena introducing, Google+, creating a more personal web focused around a consumer’s personal favorites. These partnerships are hard evidence that social media is a worthwhile investment and not an overhyped trend.
Expanding into social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Foursquare gives customers the opportunity to engage with your brand. Social media is about having a dialogue and engaging with a community. If a brand knows its community and how to engage that community the exchange of great content and conversation will raise brand awareness and increase sales. The web has democratized social influence although the end goal is still the same-- create buzz, engage an audience and boost sales. Through social media platforms your message can be amplified and reach a target audience. Forming relationships with the right influencers can help a brand's message reach target customers via a trusted source.
In a recent research survey by Visibli, Audi had the most engaged fans on Facebook, more so than Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. For each post, the study evaluated the number of likes per 100,000 fans. Audi received over 255 likes per 100,000 fans surpassing the most popular music artists. Audi also hired social media measurement company, Klout, to find some of the most influential opinion leaders online and asked them to tweet about Audi’s #Progressis trend campaign. The Audi followers tweeted more than 12,000 times about the hashtag, creating a chain of online Audi-related chatter. Will this fan and follower engagement result in an increase in the number of Audis sold? Not necessarily, but word-of-mouth validation is typically the most powerful and cost-effective marketing method available.
In addition to using social media as a sales tool, or to acquire new customers, brands can also use it as a customer retention tool. If someone likes or follows your business, it's because they're interested in hearing from you on some regular basis. Therefore, it is important that you have a routine schedule for your blogs, tweets, and postings. Keeping your fans and followers up-to-date on what's new and happening with your business or industry keeps them engaged and your brand in mind.
Measuring the effects of social media is a difficult science. Ideally what we should be looking at are the effects of social influence: whether someone has actually taken an action they typically would not, changed their mind about an issue or brand, or has been influenced otherwise. There is real value in social media, so start using it to expand your brand awareness, social influence and your bottom line.
By: Stephanie Silvera | @Steph_Silvera