The marketing landscape is constantly changing, and over the past few years a large migration of advertising dollars has begun to flow into the online markets in a variety of ways. Two of the biggest places this online advertising power has gone are in streaming online television and advertising through social networks. Social networks have been gaining steam steadily for the past several years, and the dollar value of these sites as companies has been steadily increasing along with their active user count.
Many companies seeking low budget solutions for advertising have turned to MySpace or Facebook, and as these sites have grown larger corporations have also thrown their hats into the ring of social networking. As the marketing model evolves, these smaller companies are finding that social networks are not best used as their sole method of advertising themselves, but merely a strand in the web of their online brand. Several of the major players such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter have begun to see a large amount of activity from larger companies.
Social networks have often sought to be a very personal experience, with direct interaction between you and the people you care to build a community around you. Some corporations have begun to take advantage of this by having representatives regularly manage accounts in order to give a level of customer service and interaction that isn’t really possible with more traditional methods. This puts the faces of real people into the brand of these companies, effectively trying to diminish the large faceless monster stigma many people have towards these giant companies. The same goes for smaller companies; having individuals represent your company in a one-on-one way gives your brand a personal identity, not just a name and a logo. Many companies are building networks around their brand made up of their customers to disseminate information into the public at a relatively easy manner in a sort of electronic word-of-mouth process. Another simple reason is plain old customer feedback; having a presence in an online space many of your users already regularly inhabit means easier access to you in order to receive more quality customer feedback.
A misconception among many people today is that these social networking sites are primarily driven by young demographic categories, and that is true for Facebook and MySpace earlier in their life spans several years ago. But nowadays, the fastest growing demographic groups for these sites are older individuals, and as such, they grant stability to those sites as they are less vulnerable to the fad nature of some social networking sites when they are completely youth driven. That is not to say these social networking sites are immune to downfall anymore. Facebook has in the past year or two far surpassed MySpace in its active user count, and MySpace seems to be stagnating somewhat. But this is why I suggest a presence in a variety of social networking sites in order to round out your online advertising presence, whether you are an Arizona web design firm or a restaurant looking for more customers. There is also of course the need to stay professional in this environment; know that everything that is posted online is the equivalent of posting a billboard in space, so keeping personal topics separated from your professional presence is essential.
Social networking marketing is still very new but it certainly has a large amount of potential. As more and more ad revenue moves into the online market, social networking has potential to be a cornerstone of Internet marketing, perhaps becoming as important as commercials are to television.