Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Social media marketing: the paradigm shift

Social media are revolutionizing the way people interact—not only with each other, but with businesses, organizations and cultural institutions. Social media allow consumers, through blogs, message boards and other user-generated content, to post and share their opinions and perceptions. Similarly, social media are revolutionizing the way companies communicate. In other words, new technologies underline the limitations of antiquated communication models and theories (e.g., cybernetic model and frame analysis) and greatly facilitate two-way communication. Thus, social media are challenging traditional notions of advertising and marketing in the contexts of technology, culture and commerce.

Social media are changing the way companies communicate, allowing them not only to achieve incoming and outgoing communications, but also to communicate 24/7 about their brand. In fact, there is an expectation of 24/7 personal service: consumers expect that they will not be subjected to mass, non-targeted information and that any concerns will be addressed quickly and personally. Dave Folkens describes the shifting landscape thus:
By engaging proactively, PR teams can create new opportunities to create a favorable brand impression that can lead to the beginning of a social media relationship and a potential business relationship.
Companies and institutions are now exploring the ways social media fit their communication activities—activities such as marketing and public relations; community building; crisis communication and issues management; product, sales and support; ongoing, real-world, real-time feedback, insight and participation. Each of these activities is social, and social is about relationships. Marketers must understand and participate in social media and integrate them—in a relevant way—into multichannel marketing strategies.

Doing this presents a three-pronged challenge since social media can be found on the Internet, on handheld and mobile devices, and in many new media. Social media centre on user-generated content, on the ability to post and share such content with others, and on greater ease of conversation and engagement. Social applications, by their very nature, allow the interaction to take place and supplement, rather than replace, interactions with others. Thus, anyone participating in the conversation, using whatever technology or medium best suits him or her, is part of the social web. Moreover, this social web reflects cultural norms and mores, and provides channels to communicate thoughts, ideas and opinions on any number of topics, including companies and their business models.

Here’s a look at today’s leading social networks and user-generated content technologies, and an overview of how they’re becoming tools in marketers’ social arsenal.

Message boards

Savvy marketers know message boards can build customer-service oriented online communities, and they also know that health of the community and timeliness of responses are an important metric. In addition, because they know super users and subject matter experts are important resources for both the organization and the community, marketers strive to find ways to motivate such users to participate actively in the conversation.

Blogs are a ubiquitous, influential medium, allowing authors to create unlimited content about the topics that interest them. Although not as community oriented as message boards, blogs nevertheless allow users to publish content to elicit other users’ comments or viewpoints.

Social networks

Mass media coverage of social networks (e.g., Facebook and MySpace) has led more and more consumers to seek them out as online and mobile destinations that let them engage with one another and share content. With more than 460 million users worldwide, Facebook is a ripe opportunity for marketers eager to step into the social web: Facebook Pages allow organizations to distribute content to fans, and the new Facebook Timeline lets organizations share their corporate story and milestones.

Equally important is social networks’ ability to encourage participation. Suffice to say that marketers need to strike a balance between marketing and engagement; this varies from one organization to the next, based not only on products, programs and services, but also on customer demographics.


Properly optimized video uploaded to YouTube has the potential to reach 71 million unique users each month and the sixth-largest audience on the Internet. Therefore, YouTube, from a marketer’s standpoint, has enormous potential to lift a brand’s search results. Not every organization has video-friendly content it can upload to a YouTube video channel, but creative marketers should be able to brainstorm some creative ideas.


With over 70 million users representing 170 industries in 200 countries, LinkedIn lets users post network updates, participate in groups, share events, start conversations around topics of mutual interest and source hard-to-find voices. Marketers can leverage all of this by building community groups and company pages, and by targeting consumers though banner and pay-per-click advertising.


Twitter has not only been likened to a real-time search engine, but it has also created new opportunities for marketers: by following Twitter trends, users—and marketers—can keep abreast of real-time commentary and breaking news.


In less than a generation, the digital revolution has affected almost every aspect of how we live, work, play, communicate, share and make decisions. Digital technology provides passage into a world of possibilities, and Web 2.0, a tool for bringing together the contributions of millions of people and making them matter, has unleashed social media and social networks, structures through which individuals and organizations maintain relationships. In sum, social media have not only helped to dispense with the command and control method of governing and communicating, but in so doing have also reshaped traditional notions of advertising and marketing in the contexts of technology, culture and commerce.

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