Monday, November 3, 2008

Social Media – Now Mainstream

New research from Forrester shows that 75% of Internet users now participate in some form of social networking, up from 56% in 2007. The number of people starting a social network profile increased 39% over 2007. Participants of Blogs, whether writing or contributing product reviews has also increased markedly. About 48% in this survey said they had read one. People are clearly becoming more comfortable about social networking participation and the companies that don’t use this tool are missing a substantial marketing opportunity. Social Media: What does this really mean? More and more people are looking at Blogs, about 50% more than in 2007. Therefore Blogs have become an important source of information and brands must embrace them to survive. What still remains difficult is measuring the effectiveness of social networks. It’s fairly easy to get a measure for people signing up to a Webinar, but how can you measure whether a Blog or video results in a sale? You can't! However, Investing in social media to engage customers can generate positive word of mouth, but determining how much real value you're getting for your money is difficult. When it comes to social media ROI (return on investment), metrics have proven to be somewhat elusive. In fact, according to survey data for the new Aberdeen benchmark report, "Social Media Marketing: The Latest Buzz on Word of Mouth," more than one-third (34 percent) of all companies indicated that a primary reason that they don't currently engage in social media marketing activities is because they lack suitable performance metrics for evaluating the results. (Traditional P.R. cannot be measured directly either but it’s still used!) That is not an excuse The effects of engaging in social networking can be measured by brand awareness studies and increases in customer engagement, usually calculated in terms of click-throughs, opt-ins, content downloads, registrations and various other calls to action. Brand advocacy or "likelihood to recommend" ranks as another top metric companies have adopted to measure the success of their social media marketing activities. In the end, there are myriad ways to measure ROI in social media. But can you afford not to be part of the Web 2.0 environment when customers have come to expect a certain level of accessibility to information from peer reviews? The answer is “no”. Social media has become a form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and it’s here to stay. Indeed, I would project that it will become even more important and instantaneous as mobile communications devices move toward universal wi-fi access. (But that’s another discussion.) Social media has become mainstream media. Embrace it to stay competitive and use it to learn valuable information about your customer, or get left behind. Got a question or comment, post here or email me at businessissuestoday.com

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