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Businesses Look to Social Media as Next Big Thing in Sales and Marketing

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Social Answers Featured Article

December 07, 2010

Businesses Look to Social Media as Next Big Thing in Sales and Marketing

By Mae Kowalke
TMCnet Contributor

With social media sites like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter being so hugely popular among consumers, it’s not surprising that businesses are looking for a way to get in on the action. There are, after all, a lot of eyeballs -- and potential customers -- at stake.

The question is, in this context, does it work for businesses to hang out in the same place as customers, or does the very presence of marketing and advertising dilute the experience for users and turn them off? Or, worse, do consumers simply look right past or through ads and profiles from businesses?

If the actions of major retailers, as well as smaller companies, are any indication, marketing services and products via social media is a huge opportunity that is ignored at peril.

A Sunday report from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cited figures from the Nielsen Co., indicating that Americans today spend almost a quarter of their time trolling social media sites and blogs. Worldwide, more than half of the globe’s Internet users (54 percent) visited Facebook last April, spending an average of six hours on the site.

Retailers like rue21, grocery chains like Shop ’N Save, and restaurants like Quaker Steak and Lube, are making social media a major component of their sales and marketing campaigns, using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to promote everything from the latest fashion in sweaters to special sales.

And, it’s working -- at least for younger consumers.

“We are seeing a huge increase in the 18- to 25-year-old demographic, which is what we wanted to see,” said Shannon Baker, principal at marketing firm GatesmanMarmionDrake+Dave, in the Tribune-Review report. Baker was referring to the Our Kitchen Stories social media site, developed by GatesmanMarmionDrake+Dave for Shop ’N Save.

Retailers in particular are sitting up and taking notice. The Tribune-Review article also cited figures from Chicago-based consulting firm BDO USA LLP, indicating that 75 percent of retailers are using social media sites this holiday season to enhance their marketing campaigns.

“A year ago, the question would have been, 'Should I do it?’” Baker said in the Tribune-Review report, referring to the use of social media marketing. “The question now is ‘How involved should I be?’”

Social media marketing goes beyond business-to-consumer (B2C); companies are also using it as a medium for business-to-business (B2B) campaigns. The latter may be a tougher market.

“Arguably, social media marketing for B2B companies is one of the most difficult campaigns to run,” noted blogger Kaila Strong in a Monday post. “On the surface it seems there are more successful B2C social media examples than B2B, but online seems to be where it's at if you're looking to market to those B2B decision makers.”

According to Strong’s report -- citing Forrester Research (News - Alert) findings -- almost 85 percent of B2B decision-makers use social media to inform their decisions about which services and products to buy.

It would seem that, to a certain extent, larger companies have so far been the most successful with social media marketing in the B2B realm. Strong cited example marketing campaigns from IBM (News - Alert), UPS and Kodak that used social media for a platform.

Regardless of the doubts some might have regarding marketing campaigns leveraging social media, the trend appears to be growing, a sure indicator that something about the pairing is working.

Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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