There Is No Future In Social Media Part 2

Last week we looked at how social media will soon be just media. Today we'll consider what all this means for the future of social media marketing and how can businesses adjust to deal with an increasingly demanding consumer?

Firstly let’s look at some figures:

• 53% of active social network users follow a brand.

• 73% of consumers have posted a product or service review on websites like Amazon or Yelp.

• 50% of small business owners reported gaining new customers through social media – most notably through Facebook and LinkedIn.

• 53% of people on Twitter recommend companies or their products in their tweets.

• 51% of Facebook users and 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the brands they follow.

It’s little wonder then that today 80% of small businesses are using social media to handle their marketing and sales.

So what about the other 20%? Let’s firstly get one thing straight, social media is not the be-all and end-all for your business. But beware, if your brand is not fully embracing social media in all its forms then there is a chance that you may miss the boat and probably won’t be able to get back on.

In 2012, there is still surprising evidence to suggest that many companies are not keen to wield the full power of social media.

Marketing sociologist, Richard Kelleher has witnessed this resistance first- hand, “Companies will wake up to 21st Century marketing. That “social media” is not push marketing like advertising on television, but building societies.

In 2006, I was thrown out of forward thinking marketers’ offices for saying, “You need a MySpace and YouTube presence.” They wanted press releases. Today I am thrown out of forward thinking marketers’ offices for saying, “You need QR codes and mobile sites.”

Today those forward thinking marketers want SEO. SEO? That’d be like wanting press releases in 2006. Social media will be the major way to build brands – but that was 2008. Marketers will wake up to that around 2014.”

On the other hand, brands have to be careful to not assume that simply having a social media presence is enough. For your business to effectively connect with today’s customer, it must not only stand for something but also do something. One of the key performance indicators and main focuses for any businesses should be social media engagement – using digital media to connect with people. This customer engagement is vital to discover how a product worked or didn’t work, hear what they think, what they want and ultimately how you can improve your services.

This interconnectivity forces brands to re-think how to relate with their users in fresh and exciting ways. With the reasonably new Google+ brand pages proving popular, companies are having to refocus their universal social strategies and decide which platforms support their core marketing initiatives. These brand pages open up new avenues for companies to connect with consumers, and it has been interesting to see the early stages of this transition. That being said, it is highly probable that the “early-adopter” brands and companies that gain first-mover advantage in these areas will be glad in future that they did.

Further possibilities exist in the human touch of social media. It is not a wild assumption to believe that social media will become the omnipresent source of all relevant information. The missing personal connection that will allow mankind to tap into the full potential of the web. This in turn will transform eCommerce as we know it.

Social media allows customers to discuss purchasing decisions and gain the feedback that they value the most. eTailers that are leveraging social media, will continue to see the benefits of this level of customer engagement, not just in the unlimited access to millions of customers (and their friends through recommendations) but also through benefits such as better conversion rates and higher customer satisfaction scores. Payment of these purchases is likely to take place directly from social media sites themselves.

Rather than simply liking those pair of sunglasses and posting the link or sharing the picture with your friends, you will soon be able to buy them, recommend them, review them and more. We have seen Facebook and eBay combining recently, and using Facebook Credits on eBay or PayPal on Facebook when making purchases looks an ever-increasing possibility.

One thing is for sure, the future of social media is certain to offer up many exciting, new opportunities for brands and businesses to connect with their customers. That’s why current businesses must act swiftly and rethink their future strategies, shifting most if not all of their marketing efforts towards engaging with customers. There is no business risk in reaching out to customers and marketing to them in a caring, personal fashion and making them feel valued. That’s just good customer service.

It’s even more important however, to understand that meaningful brand experience effectively creates customers, and this not only matters to customers – it drives figures to your bottom line.

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.