Why is online social space growing at such an exponential rate? Yeah it’s viral and we all know how quick a virus spreads, but is that why sites like Facebook have profiles for a third of the Canadian population? Social networks have become an extension of lifestyle. They’re not a fad, they’re a part of how people socialize. Social networks are the new online landscape for social interaction. And like any place where people congregate, it presents an opportunity for Marketers to capture the attention of an audience. How they achieve this will no doubt completely change the future of communication much like the cell phone or the Internet.
Marketers are struggling to define social media and networking. What it means to their business and how they can use it to expand on their marketing strategy. Few have yet to determine why they should use it. Some think it’s a PR tool, others believe it’s another advertising medium. All know it has the potential to become a powerful influencer.
What Marketers seem to be having a difficult time realizing is that social networks are not another busy street corner where they can hang a billboard. They’re much more personal. In order to successfully connect in this space Marketers have to be honest and sometimes they have to get naked in order for others to determine if they want to get involved. It’s difficult because who wants to expose themselves on a street corner with 8 million people watching, you have to be pretty confident.
Entering the social media space is really no different than any other type of relationship, you have to be prepared to take risks and put yourself out there for all to see. You can’t control the environment so you have to be prepared for criticism and rejection, it’s a part of life . But, as with any relationship, when you find the right one it will lead to valuable insight and emotional connection.
When you put this in the context of a brand, Marketers have been building brand relationships for years by telling stories and influencing perception. But its always been a one-way conversation. Brands have personalities, character and emote. These qualities are often contrived based how the brand sees itself or how it wants to be perceived by others. We all have ideas on who we really are or how we would like to others to see us. But, there is sometimes a reality that gets overlooked. We aspire to be something that is beyond the scope of our abilities. Brands are no different, but now with the help of social media, there is opportunity to discover more of the unknown. To reach out and ask people if they see things in the same way. To test ideas, challenge perceptions, influence misconceptions and change opinions. The whole playing field for brand research has been changed. Marketers no longer have to assume that the voice of a select few represents the whole, they can ask the whole and listen for the common thread. When they are implementing change they can engage their core audience with a minimal investment and get honest, real reactions from a community of individuals who share a relationship with the brand.
Social media is creating a huge opportunity for change. Those who embrace it now and determine how to leverage its incredible power will be at the forefront of marketing in the future. Like any relationship, if you ignore someone you will eventually alienate them. If you ignore social media you will eventually alienate everyone.