Social media began as a way for college students to communicate with their friends by using computers. It has now turned into a multibillion networking system that has spanned across the globe. And, this marvel has not gone unnoticed by the marketing industry.
The advent of social media over the past few years has caused a major shift in the modern marketing field. Not only are companies using social media to promote their products and services, they are also hiring social media experts to develop marketing strategies to further connect with consumers and other businesses.
The two most prominent social networking services that consumers and businesses use are Facebook and Twitter. Launched in 2004, Facebook allows users to share up-to-the-minute facts about their personal lives by posting the information on their “wall,” which is a page that only their “friends” (those who users invite to access their page) may read. The Los Angeles Times reported in an article dated September 22, 2011, that Facebook has more than 800 million users.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to send “tweets,” which are text messages of no more than 140 characters. Twitter came on the social networking scene in 2006. In a study released in June 2011, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported that 13 percent of online adults use Twitter, and half of the users access Twitter on a cell phone.
Companies have since seized the opportunity to market their products and services by setting up business pages on Facebook and establishing Twitter accounts. Businesses have not completely abandoned print, television and broadcast advertising to promote their goods. However, some companies have made more generous offers to those who use social media by offering discounts, coupons and sales that can only be found on Facebook or Twitter.
Companies use social media to market everything from new products, to job offers, to home health care services, and even financial incentives like auto loans. For example, an auto loan company can offer a special deal on interest rates through Twitter or Facebook that is not advertised to the general public through mainstream media. The millions of potential customers on Facebook and Twitter may be entitled to a certain percentage off of interest charges if they contact the company and say they read about the deal through the social media services.
What marketers like about social media is how rapidly users can share the latest promotional information with their friends and family. This method gives those in the marketing industry another avenue to reach masses of people. This is similar to the traditional “word of mouth” marketing in which information is passed from one person to another through oral communication, although on a much slower basis compared to technology.
Although traditional marketing methods still remain, social media is changing the landscape of marketing at a very fast pace. And, it does not appear that it will slow down any time soon.