Wednesday, 27 May 2009

How Can Online Social Networking Increase Sales?

This article will cover:

  • The online social networking phenomenon
  • How can social networking sites help businesses communicate marketing messages?
  • Why traditional interruption marketing is beginning to fail in reaching your target audience
  • How non-traditional permission based marketing can help you reach those audiences

Permission Based Marketing

Using online social networks to market a message, product, and service (Social Media Marketing) is permission based. People these days, especially younger generations are blocking out traditional marketing either psychologically or though technology (fast forward through Sky TV adverts, listen to online radio with no adverts, spam filters block email messages, throw leaflets in the bin, etc).

Traditional Interruption Marketing is getting ignored!

If we were selling a fridge, we would use social media marketing to garner interest with an audience who is in the market to buy a fridge, but is not yet decided which fridge to buy and where to buy it from. The content for our social media marketing campaign therefore should be written for people in the market to understand fridges a little better, compare prices and features, but is at some stage before the actual purchase.

There is a large group of people out there who no longer respond to traditional marketing. They aren’t at the stage of wanting to buy, but are using the internet to gather information required to make a decision to buy.

Online social networking is permission based. This means that you provide help and advice when people want and are looking for it. We need to make sure we have a presence online and keep a constant conversation going with audiences so that we will be the first port of call when a decision to buy is made.

Facebook is only one example of how we can interact with this new generation of media users. We can promote videos on youtube, photos on flickr, articles on Digg and much, much more. Write helpful articles or how about an online diagnosis team that searches for people with illness’s on yahoo answers and give them professional advice as to what course of action they should take.

There are many more ways that we can reach more “clients” and provide a more satisfactory service online. The great thing is it can be little work, as you are able to re-use content you have already created in the past, online and offline you are just distributing it in a different way to before and to a much wider audience.

What is Online Social Networking?

Online social networking is very similar to offline social networking. You meet up with acquaintances and strangers either by chance, through a friend or at an event, and converse with them, offering advice and help. Sometimes you will exchange contact details and will open up more opportunities to do business. The more help and advice you give them and the more questions you answer, the more chance they will keep in contact with you and use your services when needed in the future.

Online social networking allows people to converse with strangers from their computers and do the exact same things as offline, but on a much larger and efficient scale.

What can online social networking marketing do for businesses?

Social media marketing can help you increase the activity around these top goals:

  • Website traffic and user behavior
  • Conversion and sales tracking
  • Page views, ad exposure
  • Growing brand awareness (a softer value, takes longer to build)
  • Creating a positive brand
  • Business development and a broader customer reach
  • SMM can help with SEO
  • SMM can promote your Blog

Spreading your message across facebook Virally

Over the past year facebook has become very popular and whether you like it or not, what it does mean is that you can now harness this community to get a message out to potentially thousands of people for very little money.

How do I use facebook to advertise my business virally?

facebook has an advertising option called Social Ads.

You make an advert and typically pay whenever someone clicks though your advert. The system is a lot like Google’s Adwords program.

Most people simply send visitors straight to their website; an effective advertising method in itself. But this overlooks an enormous potential to leverage facebook’s ability to spread your message virally.

What you need to do is set up what is called a facebook Public Profile (formerly called a Page). This is like a normal Web Page, but it is integrated within facebook’s system, which means whenever someone interacts with that page, all their facebook’s friends will be notified!

This is very important!

How do we do it?

Here’s an example to illustrate:

The Nags Head pub wants to spread awareness of its new healthy meal options . To spread their message virally, they create a facebook Public Profile.

The facebook page is customised with the Nags Head logo and colours. It also explains some facts about healthy eating, that it is easier than you think to eat healthy.

To get the users to interact with the page, the Nags Head decides to start a competition.

“20 Free ipod Giveaway with a copy of Running Anthems 2008
The best pub in town serving honest healthy grub
Simply Add Yourself as a Fan for a Chance to Win”
All runners up will receive 10% for a year

Winners will be notified by email on the 26th of November 2008”

This would be an excellent way to get users to add themselves as a fan.

How will this message travel?

Lets say Paul arrives at our Public Profile (facebook page) and decides to add himself as a fan – all his friends (typically around 100 users) would be notified. Let’s say Suzie, George and Chris all read the notification and decided to join too; that means all their friends will also be notified. We may have spread our message to around 400 people already and it doesn’t stop, it just keeps going virally.

All that is required to start the viral chain is some initial visitors and that is what we use facebook Social Ads for.

Is facebook advertising really for me?

Although facebook has mass potential, to make a successful campaign one is required to break away from traditional marketing methods.

Whilst advertising your product right from the advert can work, the campaigns that tend to spread virally:

  • Realise that people use facebook for leisure and try to appeal to them through competitions or by providing something fun to do.
  • Provide something of value; a reason to interact. In the Nags Head pub example, people may interact because healthy eating is in the news and it is hard to find a pub that serves healthy eating food. They also get the get the chance to win something desirable and get future discounts.
  • Up sell from the facebook Public Profile rather than selling straight from the advert.
  • Use facebook’s in-built targeting to target people who are most likely to be interested in their advert.
  • Realise that they are in fact giving up their brand. They no longer own it, their friends on the social network now does. They can comment (good or bad) on their products and service.

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