By Michael Smith (@mikesmith55)
Capturing mindshare and market share is a key imperative for thriving organizations; social media is becoming an irresistible way of getting there. According to a report from research and consulting firm Borrell Associates, the amount U.S. companies spend marketing themselves on social networking sites like Facebook is expected to grow from an estimated $4.5 billion in 2009 to nearly $38 billion by 2015.
As organizations shift more dollars toward social media sites, marketers need to reexamine their thinking and ensure they are using this medium effectively to deliver advertising and promotional messages that resonate with customers, patients, and prospects. Because people consume media in many different ways, organizations need to do more than just craft the right messages; to be seen as thought leaders, they need to identify channels where customers are active, participate by adding value to the relationship and monitor the progress of competitors.
What should marketers think about as they prepare to allocate a greater percentage of their marketing dollar to social media?
The decision-making process Customers use multiple information sources prior to making a purchasing decision. Beyond visiting your company website, theyre reaching out to their network for individual experiences, reading product reviews, searching on blogs and accumulating information. To take advantage of this mindset, look for various forums, networks and outlets where your customers are already active to get your messages out and connect with people interested in your product, service or company. As socially-driven product recommendations become a larger part of the decision-making process, consider incorporating that personalized feedback into your marketing initiatives.
Understanding ROBO behavior is also critical. Because many people research online and buy offline, consider supporting strategies, such as incorporating mobile messaging that enable consumers to have personalized promotions at their fingertips when theyre ready to make a purchase.
The consumption behavior Is your buyer an avid YouTube consumer? A Facebook fanatic? Active on patient communities or disease-specific forums? New and emerging communities will continue to evolve; think about where your target audience is active and how they like to consume media. Then, devise a strategy that complements their behavior. In some cases, this may mean making investments in traditional print and television media. Other consumers may warrant a more robust mobile or email program. Regardless of your strategy, its critical to start with understanding customer behavior and then tailor appropriate messages.
The feedback loop – If you operate with a customer-centric philosophy, social media also offers an excellent opportunity to tap into the thoughts and perceptions of your target audience. Social media puts customer input on a silver platter, enabling marketers to understand how their messages and products are perceived through measurable data. With this understanding, marketers can take a proactive approach in refining offers or uncovering new opportunities.
Social media provides new opportunities for marketers to engage a community and motivate action. Understanding consumer preferences can enable marketers to increase effectiveness, tap into the distinct interests of their target audience and create communications that achieve marketing goals.