How should social media impact your online marketing strategies?

Due to what has been called connectivity hunger, more than half the population of the United States is on Facebook: 152.9 million as of February 2012. Many older Americans tell their friends that they joined Facebook so that they can see what their adult children are up to. Since their children and grandchildren rarely call them, they join Facebook to keep in touch.

For the younger generations, the immediacy of connectivity offered by Facebook and Twitter has become essential. Social media, a term coined by Mark Zuckerberg when he founded Facebook, was initially predicted to be just another passing phase, but it has become a staple in the 21st century’s seemingly endless need for instant information. Launched in 2004, Facebook’s active users grew from an initial million to more than 750 million in 2011.

Combine this data with the fact that one in three purchases are made online, it should be clear that current marketing strategies need to change to accommodate. But how?

Largely in the experimental stages of new advertising methods, some big companies like Starbucks, Walmart and Palms, a luxury casino in Las Vegas, have made what they consider decent avenues into the new culture of social media users. Taking advantage of users who are “influencers” in their network, companies have asked these people to post their product and “like” them in exchange for coupons that can be redeemed for cash or products. These influencers are considered as such by their followers due to the power of their personality, opinions or experience.

Those of us with a product we know is great can easily experiment with some of these same methods. For example, we may locate loyal customers who use Twitter and then offer them discounts for every ten tweets about our product to their followers. Similar methods can be offered to those of us who like us on Facebook; In reality, these are just variations on the testimonials that network marketers have used for years.

The advent of social media hasn’t changed the fundamental marketing axiom: “WIIFM” or what’s in it for me? If anything, the principle is magnified through 153 million active users on social media with friends numbering between one and three hundred. If they like us and our products, rest assured, they will talk about it.

The tried-and-true marketing essentials remain: a consistently high-quality, reliable product with excellent customer service. These are even more essential now than in years past due to the number of sites for buying advice. Whereas just five years ago, Consumer Reports was the only source for honest feedback on a fairly limited range of products, contemporary curious potential buyers can now check customer satisfaction with almost any product online at sites like Google, Yelp, and Trusted opinion.

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