Underestimating the power of social media is bad for businesses
By Jeffery Hoyle
Emphasis Marketing & Communications
Businesses that have chosen to overlook the power of social media outlets have, in essence, missed the boat. Ignoring the power of this ever-growing medium hampers a business’s exposure to what may be a key demographic. While men presently comprise the largest percentage of users, women are quickly gaining on the roster of daily social media users. However, men have been leading the charge for quite some time. But the male to female ratio of users is outshined by the fact that social media outlets — especially those that are location-based — can be inexpensive and lucrative tools to bring your business to the forefront. In essence, they work.
Take into consideration the example of Facebook. In 2006, this networking juggernaut revamped itself from a simple social networking tool for students into the 500 million plus member force it is today. In its infancy, Facebook was merely a fun, interactive networking tool born at Harvard University, but it has since grown exponentially into a social network that has forever changed the face of media and marketing. Originally, the only members of Facebook were students with an e-mail suffix ending in .edu at the aforementioned Harvard, Yale and a few other Ivy League institutions. When Facebook’s development team, helmed by wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg, decided to open up the membership ranks to include individuals outside of their Ivy League realm, the boom began. Added to the mix were inexpensive advertising options that brought not just huge revenues to Facebook, but priceless exposure to a vast market of consumers for advertisers that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. Brands that invested early in Facebook have reaped huge benefits, and businesses currently benefitting from the sites economical advertising options are continuing to reap the benefit. Thus, the Facebook phenomenon was born.
Since then, other sites have attempted to improve on the Facebook model, but few have managed to achieve the same level of success. But rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, savvy social and location-based media sites have adopted a sort of “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Instead of declaring a war of head-to-head competition, location-based sites such as Loopt and Foursquare, professional networking site LinkedIn, and social media site Twitter have all opted to partner with Facebook to create a sort of social media conglomerate. For example, a “check in” at the local dry cleaners on Foursquare can be sent to your entire network on Facebook. A posting about your recent promotion on LinkedIn can go out to all your followers on your Twitter account. If you have a network of 500 different followers on all four sites, your message has expanded its net to not just 500 individuals, but 2,000, in a few simple steps.
While the reach of many of these outlets is overlooked by major marketers as “too small,” other leading marketing firms, such as 360i, are starting to take notice of how powerful a tool these sites can be. Loopt lists a roster of four million; Foursquare, two million; and LinkedIn a colossal 75 million. Their ranks grow larger every day, and so does their presence as the next potential social media giants. The best part is that business can still benefit by getting on board now.
Remember the “Flash Mob” that helped Oprah Winfrey kick off the 24th season of her talk show with a synchronized and choreographed dance done to a live performance by the Black Eyed Peas? That was a direct result of how social media and location-based media can and do capture an audience, and motivate action. A number of other major brands have locked into the power of the social media message as well, such as Bravo Television, The History Channel, Starbucks and the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Even major player Coca Cola is on board, using a Foursquare account to announce locations in advance for their product sampling tour at sporting events across the country. Plus, by aligning themselves with Facebook, these small but mighty media outlets have not only broadened their message, but their audience appeal, as well.
Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools marketers have in their arsenal. Welcome to the 21st century versions: social and location-based media. While other marketers battle for premium position in other mainstream marketing veins such as print, television and digital mediums, smart marketers who are tuned in are enjoying a surge in success by offering access to social media as a value-added service. Adding this component to your marketing efforts will not only enhance your business, but may inspire a “flash mob” to swarm your doors for a chance at benefitting from your business savvy.