Somewhere in the past decade, social media has persuaded consumers to open the doors to their personal lives to favorite brands. What used to be a mass-media, outside-the-home approach to advertising, now has become an in-pocket, one-on-one conversation between consumers and corporations.
The Power of Many-to-Many Marketing
A new phrase has emerged in the marketing world: “many-to-many” marketing. Instead of the conversation being “one-to-many” (i.e. company-advertisement-to-the-masses), messages can be distributed through “many-to-many” conversations (i.e. masses-sharing-brand-messages-with-the-masses). If companies can leverage social media to empower customers and fans to spread brand messages without company prompting, it is considered a HUGE WIN in the marketing world. In order to sustain a many-to-many conversation on Facebook or Twitter, marketers should use in the following tactics:
- Storytelling (only stories worth sharing) in video, picture, words and sounds
- User-generated content
The sustainability of a many-to-many conversation requires consistent attention to and responding to incoming messages as well as consistent generation of interesting content for distribution purposes.
What Social Media Can Offer Companies in Many-to-Many Marketing
As Facebook and Twitter have grown in popularity over the last decade, the rules of the social media game have evolved. Today, over 15 million companies leverage Facebook as a powerful brand engagement tool, according to John Koetsier. And, over 94% of the 200 million Twitter users expect to receive brand promotions and discounts through Tweets, according to a 2013 update released by Twitter. Clearly, both channels hold vast opportunities for customer connections, product promotion, brand engagement, customer feedback solicitation, company news distribution, viral marketing, and increased sales and brand loyalty, as Aaron Lee puts it.
According to Lesson 7 of my Emerging Media and the Market class, social media offers companies:
- New ways for customers to share brand experiences, opinions and expertise
- More channels for providing customers with product/service information
- New market entry opportunities
- Ways to get ideas for product development and innovation
- Invitations for customers to converse with brands
Advantages and Disadvantages of Facebook
According to Lesson 7, “Facebook is the most active of the social networking sites, and it’s growing fast.” With over 1 billion users, Facebook is a goldmine for customer recommendations, prospecting, and friend/family promotions (which are two times more successful than other types of promotions, according to Lesson 7) . The two greatest advantages Facebook has to offer businesses are:
- Quantity: the number of people available to receive marketing messages
- Multi-Media: the ability to display multiple types of media – links, embedded videos, photos, polls, text and more (which are much more share-able)
The two greatest disadvantages Facebook has to offer are:
- News Feed Saturation: Facebook’s promoted pages have recently begun to appear interspersed with users’ personal posts and connections on Facebook. Though customers are becoming increasingly more open to receiving brand messages through social channels, Facebook must continue to tread lightly so as to avoid driving away users due to over-saturation of marketing messages.
- Potentially Inaccurate Reporting: The great disadvantage of promoted posts within an average user’s newsfeed is the immanent clutter. Customers with too much to look at may miss a brand’s message altogether, while Facebook will still count this as a person “reached.”
Advantages and Disadvantages of Twitter
Twitter launched in 2006 as a microblogging site, now boasting 200 million users, more than on LinkedIn or Google Plus, according to Lesson 7. Many companies have leveraged this microblogging channel for by-the-moment company updates, product releases, corporate social responsibility news, and investor information. Because of its 140-character limit, Twitter holds the greatest potential of mobile reach. Thus, Twitter’s greatest advantages for marketers are:
- Clicks-Through: Twitter is extremely personal and instant, and yet it consistently contributes to increased Web site traffic and, possibly, sales. How do we know this? Companies use track-able abbreviated links within Tweets, and can see how many people clicked on a link, then using that information to track how many people from those clicks completed their pre-determined Website goals.
- Mobile Capability: Because Twitter can easily stream its 140 characters into push-notifications, many individuals use Twitter on their mobile devices. Thus, Twitter can reach people wherever they are, on their most intimate device. I once heard that the average smartphone user has the phone within five feet of their body 24 hours a day. What an opportunity!
Despite its advantages, Twitter also holds disadvantages for companies:
- Immediate Saturation: Due to the immediacy of microblogging, brand messages take only minutes before they are pushed out of a user’s newsfeed. Thus, Twitter can require consistent attention from companies in order to leverage this channel as a top-of-mind branding platform. Based on the sheer volume of posts being produced on Twitter at any given moment (depending on how many people the individual is following), your post will likely be pushed out of the individual’s news feed in a matter of minutes, never to be seen, unless the individual scrolls for a while.
- Broadcast-ification: According to Jake Levine of Neiman’s Journalism Lab, Twitter is become more broadcast-focused, rather than personal. Similar to what I mentioned in my post “Why Social Media is More than Posts: Using Facebook’s Newest Algorithm to Your Advantage,” social media platforms are becoming individual’s primary news-accessing platforms, so it may be that your brand message will become a lower priority than news messages.
A Word About Ethics: Privacy Issues
Both Facebook and Twitter pose significant privacy concerns that companies must address, such as the access marketers have to customers’ interests, ages, relationship status, personal hobbies, religious affiliations and more. Simply begin to create a Facebook ad, and it becomes obvious how much information Facebook owns on its over-one-billion users. As marketers, it is our job to make sure that we never exploit information to which we have access. This is a high value of mine, and I hope it will be for you, too.