I don't want to say I told you so, but social media works for business and, finally, there is strong evidence to substantiate that claim.
Several research reports over the past couple of months have validated the influence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter on the buying process.
Specifically, the study of over 1,500 consumers by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that "60% of Facebook fans and 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower." Not only that, but an "impressive 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of."
It has become commonplace for brands to have a presence on these and other social media sites. Those that don't face obsolescence. “If they're not on Facebook or Twitter, then they aren't in touch with the 'electronic' people,” said one participant in the study.
“While social media is not the silver bullet that some pundits claim it to be, it is an extremely important and relatively low-cost touch point that has a direct impact on sales and positive word of mouth,” comments Josh Mendelsohn, a vice president at Chadwick Martin Bailey. “Companies not actively engaging are missing a huge opportunity and are saying something to consumers, intentionally or unintentionally, about how willing they are to engage on consumers’ terms.”
eMarketer and MarketingProfs report the researchers explored why social media users become brand fans. "The top reason to friend a brand on Facebook was to receive discounts, followed by simply being a customer of the company and a desire to show others that they support the brand," according to eMarketer. On Twitter, it was all about discounts, up-to-the-minute information and exclusive content that attracted consumer attention.
In light of this new information, what should a brand do? Several things actually.
1. Establish an outpost on Facebook via the use of a Fan Page. Not only are Fan Pages one of the few means by which businesses can legitimately engage in Facebook, it's pretty darned effective, especially when time and attention is paid to the Page's development. By that I mean frequently updated content, interactions with Fans, and the inclusion of custom content facilitated through the use of staticFBML or apps such as those offered by Involver, which are specifically designed for Fan Pages.
2. Start tweeting for Pete's sake. Even if you use Twitter only as a broadcast channel, at least you have a presence there. If you extend your engagement to include interactions with followers, even better, especially if you can accompany such engagement with special offers and highly-relevant content.
3. Tell everyone you know in every way you can think of. Include links to Facebook, Twitter (and any other social media outlet you inhabit) on your company website, email signature, email newsletter, business cards, and other sales collateral. Heck, I know one furniture company that posted a huge billboard asking everyone to friend them on Facebook.
4. Make your website a hub of social activity. Rather than your site being a stand-alone information silo, tie content produced there to Facebook and Twitter posts. If you have a blog, include the ability for readers to share your posts via Facebook/Twitter and other sites. Conversely, make sure that your social media outlets point back to your website or blog. I still believe the company website has relevance. It's just not the only place where your presence can reside on the Web any longer.
According to Facebook's own figures, more than 1.5 million businesses have active Pages there. The average user becomes a Fan of four pages per month. As for Twitter, a survey done in November 2008 showed that 56 percent of those that use Twitter do so for business purposes, and that 89 percent of users agree that brands should engage consumers there.
The facts are in. Social media works for business. Consumers want you there, expect you to be there, and will reward you with their attention and patronage if you are. Need more be said?
Looking for real-world examples of businesses achieving their social media marketing goals? Our 47-page case-study collection, Facebook Success Stories, shows you how to increase brand awareness, target specific markets, promote new products, and create communities that engage users. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.
Paul Chaney is a veteran digital marketing consultant, trainer, writer, editor, and author of four books, including The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media. Reach him via email@example.com.
LinkedIn: Paul Chaney