Why Social Networking Will Knock Your Business on Its Head
- By John Rose
- Aug. 25 2009 00:00
Modern marketers understand that a successful brand is more than a product or trademark. It is the result of a bond built between a company and its consumers. This has never been more apparent than it is today with the advent of social networks.
According to digital measurement firm comScore, two-thirds of global Internet users access social networking sites. Russia apparently has the world’s most engaged social networking audience among 40 researched countries.
Of the 31.9 million Russians who accessed the Internet in April, 18.9 million, or nearly 60 percent of the country’s total online population, visited social networking sites, including popular Russian-based sites like Vkontakte.ru and Odnoklassniki.ru.
Facebook.com attracted 616,000 Russian visitors, up nearly 300 percent versus a year ago. And while only 38,000 Russian users are registered on Twitter (out of more than 12 million worldwide), its numbers are dramatically increasing. YouTube, LinkedIn and others are making similar progress.
The highly engaged behavior of social networkers in Russia offers an enormous opportunity to reach audiences that are becoming inured to conventional media. However, as only 10% of Russian corporate blogs are active or updated with any regularity, few Russian companies appear to know how best to accomplish this task.
Many companies lack the nimbleness to adapt to the new pace of online communications. Before social networking, success was measured in months and years. Today, companies can execute marketing programs with feedback in minutes and hours.
Social networking is turning businesses on their heads. “Market-driven” is just marketing-speak for capitalizing on established trends. Social networking, however, is a game changer.
At the time if this writing, for example, Apple Computer hasn’t mentioned a tablet-style touch screen computer device. However, this hasn’t stopped social networkers from engaging in a global conversation about Apple creating and launching such a device. A recent Google search for ‘Apple tablet’ delivered over 17 million results. Enthusiasts describe the rumored device in great detail — suggesting applications and going so far as to propose hardware designs. It is astounding that social networkers are creating a product; in fact a whole new market category. And they expect Apple to build it. Talk about the tail wagging the dog!
In order to fully leverage social networking, companies must become largely transparent, empower their employees to make quick decisions and encourage a spirit of trust and cooperation among its many stakeholders. These are not qualities normally associated with largely autocratic and secretive Russian firms. If companies wish to fully embrace social marketing they will have to dramatically transform their businesses.
Here are 9 ways companies can prepare themselves for this inevitable transformation from insular to social:
The Need For Speed
Social networking occurs in real time. How fast companies execute and respond is now as important as the substance of what they do or say. This will require companies to de-centralize decision-making to allow its employees to respond to a swiftly moving marketplace.
Stay On Target
Social networking provides an opportunity for many companies to communicate on a one-to-one basis with its constituents. Marketing messages must become more targeted as companies gain the opportunity to develop a dialog with each and every customer.
Always Be Testing
The imperative to move to market more quickly means that companies will have to take more risks and become more experimental — testing on the fly. That means that research must always remain a part of the equation — not just a pre-launch component. Ready, fire, aim. Repeat.
Make it personal
Companies who want to become adept at social networking have to become… social. People talk with people, not with faceless companies. Executives and employees must become real-life characters in the corporate story.
Content Is King
Brands are the celebrities of modern business. Social networks provide a forum for fans to follow them. And this fan base will respond less to ads and more to content like blogs, digital events, videos, etc.
Money Isn’t Everything
Social networking is a great leveler. The size of the company, or the size of its wallet, is no longer the greatest determinant of success. How well a brand engages its customer, not how much it costs, is now the deciding factor.
Creativity Is The New Currency
Since big budgets no longer determine the success of marketing programs, creativity is more important than ever. The cleverest company wins.
Since social networking is not limited to marketing, companies should not relegate the task to just the marketing department. All departments must become involved in the process.
A company can’t be a little bit social. Social networking has to become a part of a company’s DNA.