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Social Media - the Next Five Steps

Posted by Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron is the Director Owner of Advent Communication. With more than 25 years experience he has a deep...
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on Thursday, 21 June 2012 in facebook

As the social media landscape continues to expand at a rate beyond anyone's predictions, we look at the next five significant changes that will affect the way in which your business interacts with its customers.

1. Customers will shape web content.

As social media becomes more integrated with corporate websites, so the actual content available to visitors becomes the property of the users themselves to a greater degree. Initially this may be in the form of comments to your blog posts (feel free to comment on this one!) or on review pages, but deeper integration will see real time commenting within articles and through feeds between the web page and platforms such as twitter and facebook.

The biggest challenge will be in monitoring and responding to the comments - especially managing negative comments and feedback. This is not something to be afraid of - the best exponents of this trend are those companies who are embracing the power of social media - warts and all - and are leveraging their existing customer base to develop their markets.

2. Commerce on mobile

Facebook's Open Graph will soon be in a position to allow users to purchase directly through the facebook interface, offering products and services recommended by your friends and friends of friends. Those companies who harness the power of this sales outlet will have a potential customer base far beyond what they can achieve on their own through more traditional forms of marketing and advertising. facebook will become one of the main sources of consumer information operating on a number of different levels: friends recommendations, company/product pages, review apps, etc.

3. Budgets for Social Media will grow

At the moment Social Media is all too often considered a necessary evil. Management don't understand it and don't want to invest in it. So it gets delegated to someone in the organisation who "understands facebook" - often a younger member of staff - "Hey - you've got facebook, right? - Why don't you post some stuff about our company...."

But as the power of Social Media is recognised, so management see the potential (and to do this you need to be tracking your online activity) and as that happens so the whole area of Social Media becomes integrated into the overall marketing approach - and gets its own budgetary allocation. Just because everyone has facebook and twitter accounts does not mean that they know how they work and how they can be used to develop market sectors.

Of course, once Social Media gets its own budget - it also becomes accountable, being required to demonstrate a return on investment. Management might not fully understand how facebook can be used to develop business, but it does know that money spent must translate into money earned.

4. Websites will mobilise

As more and more people connect to the internet through mobile devices and tablets, websites will need to be redeveloped to cater for mobile access. What's more, many visitors will access your company's information not through your website, but through your company presence on facebook. Surveys show that a growing percentage of people expect to be able to find information on products and services on social media sites and will search on facebook prior to searching on Google. Why? Because on the one hand they are familiar with the facebook interface and on the other, in their experience, corporate websites do not function well on mobile platforms.

Companies who effectively develop mobile/tablet friendly versions of their website will gain an advantage over their competitors in the same way as companies who developed a website in the late 1990's gained an advantage over their competitors who thought the internet was a passing fad (remember those luddites?).

People use mobile search in a very different way to desktop search. With a mobile search the information is needed immediately - and action is taken immediately. The faster and more simplified the information can be gathered the better, and a complicated website that doesn't work well on the small touch screen of a mobile device will have visitors frantically stabbing at the back button.

5. Location, Location, Location!

Mobile devices know where they are. At all times. And, as the name suggests, they move around with their masters. Marketers will develop more sophisticated ways to target potential customers based on their "current" location. Special offers, group buying, promotions, events, flash mobbing - it all becomes possible.

As networks develop so the potential grows. Imagine... you are a fan of a golf page. You go to the Costa del Sol on holiday. When you arrive you suddenly have access to offers and discounts from golf courses in the area, offers of free bottles of wine with a meal for four in local restaurants, a 20% discount voucher for a golf store, as well as an upgrade offer from a local rent a car company. It's a win win situation for all involved.

Don't get left behind - social media is a significant marketing opportunity that is only going to grow.


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