Later this week I am due to stand up in front of a group of strangers and impart some wisdom in how to grow successful online business in a few easy steps. I have had this pleasure annually at the Business Start Up Show since 2005 yet when I look back at my key points in the last seven years very little has changed. That is until the section on “Social Media”.
Actually, back in 2005 when we spoke about “marketing your brand” it was focused on the likes of Google Adwords, Direct Mail and we even heralded the use of tactics that would today be classed as spam emailing. But then in 2008 the word Facebook crept into the scene, although we urged caution on its use and the disruptive effect it could have on a business.
Well here we are in 2012 and not an hour goes passed without us engaging at some level with Social Media. Viva La Revolution. Today we talk to our clients via 140 character Tweets, express our agreement for a subject or a brand by clicking on a blue thumbs up button or even watch adverts on demand on our PC’s rather than in between Coronation Street.
My latest presentation focuses not only on the basics of developing an online presence but the importance of Social Media as the key to building your brand. Social Media is now one of the most important channels to market for companies, irrespective of their size and heritage. Few barriers to entry mean that it is being heard has never been easier, whilst the return on investment for any campaigns based on Social Media are very easy to monitor as well as judge profitability. Word of mouth has always been seen as more effective that traditional advertising and social media encompasses this more than anything to generate brand loyalty.
Despite the good news, it is amazing that so many companies still have no idea how to approach Social Media. Slap a Facebook page up, open a Twitter account and start tweeting how great you are is not a strategy. Yet some brands, including those who are global companies and market leaders, think that is the extent of their approach to Social Media. In a recent study by Go Gulf they found that less than 60% of the Fortune 500 companies have any presence on Social Media networks, let alone a strategy.
One of the key elements of creating an online presence it to bring a human face to your brand. Many companies use a blog (such as this one) to “humanise” themselves and give customers an insight into the day to day workings of an organisation. In the same Go Gulf report, they found that only 23% of the Fortune 500 companies use a blog, although this percentage is much higher (35%) when the top 100 companies are analysed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the brands that have adopted Social Media and have used it to their benefit.
Google, with over 4.35 million Twitter followers use their Social Media channels to give advice, facts and stats, Starbucks (2.1million followers) have used it to give away promotional items and free products, whilst Coca-Cola have over 41 million “likes” on their Facebook page.
With such a change in the business landscape in just a few years it is difficult to imagine what the next two or three years will bring. Perhaps in the year 2015 I will be presenting via a hologram from Monaco – well, we can all dream.
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications Group NBT.
NetNames is a part of Group NBT Limited.