Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marketing for Tomorrow: Social Media Marketing

Avirup Ganguly, Tanvi Saraf , IIM B

Today’s marketers are increasingly harnessing the viral power of social media marketing (marketing through online social forums and social networking sites) through innovative campaigns. The proportion of marketing spend allocated to this marketing form is predicted to quadruple in the next 5 years. This article looks at social media marketing through various lenses and examines ways in which it scores over traditional marketing. Validation of social media marketing from a social psychology perspective has been presented and several innovative campaigns have been discussed.

What do you do when you are faced with the seemingly impossible job of creating visibility for a tiny brand on a shoestring budget and you are promoting something as unexciting as a blender?
Here’s an idea: Take $50, use it to purchase a rotisserie chicken, Coke, a bag of marbles, golf balls and a URL. Then, turn on the video recorder and ask your CEO to engage in extreme blending wherein he blends marbles, golf-balls, chicken and Coke to show off the power of his blender. Upload this video on your URL and within days, clips of the CEO’s extreme blending exploits will pop-up in YouTube and your brand will get instant fame – all for $50. This is the story of BlendTec, a Utah-based blender’s successful viral marketing campaign.

This is just one among the numerous colourful examples of the ways marketers are harnessing the power of social media marketing.

Recent Developments in Social Media Marketing
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that the social networking site now has over 200 million users. If Facebook was a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world! In May 2007, Facebook opened its network to external developers. This marked the beginning of numerous social media marketing innovations. Other common social media marketing tools include Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube.

According to a 2009 survey, a company’s spend on social media marketing averages around 3.5% of its total marketing budget. This figure is predicted to grow to 6.1% within a year and to 13.7% within five years.

Through the lens of Social Psychology – The Third Person Effect
Sears has a unique strategy for generating word-of-mouth publicity through female Facebook users. Instead of naively pursuing each user on its own, it asks women to ‘help others choose their prom dresses’. Sears has correctly identified the implications of the “Third-person effect”.
Numerous social psychology studies have demonstrated that we consider other people to be more influenced by media than us. This effect is particularly strong in the context of social-networking websites. Hence Facebook users believe that they can help others, who they believe to be more gullible to aggressive marketing communication, by recommending brands they personally believe in.

These and other such behavioral tendencies of consumers can be exploited by social media marketers by careful planning of their campaign.

Transcending Beyond Reality
Nokia has initiated a very successful Facebook marketing campaign called “Somebody Else’s Phone” which is a flash micro-site that allows one to look into the phone of a hero named Luca. The idea is as follows: by exploring somebody else’s phone (text messages, address book, music stored, etc) one can tell a lot about the person and his way of life. Users can then ask Luca questions through his fanpage to gauge if they have understood him correctly.

Nokia’s campaign satisfies a very basic human craving – the urge to peek into other people’s lives. The internet can prove to be extremely liberating for it allows us to indulge in our otherwise difficult to satisfy needs from behind a shroud of anonymity. Nokia’s initiative shows how marketers can satisfy otherwise elusive human emotional needs by using internet technology.

Integrating Social Media Marketing into Brands
Despite the challenges involved, several companies are finding innovative ways of integrating social media into their brands. IKEA is one such example; the company was successful in converting idle browsing into a flourishing bottomline. An account of one of their store managers was created on Facebook and showroom furniture images were uploaded to his Facebook photo album. Using the all-popular “tagging” feature, customers were able to locate items in the pictures and put their name on it. The first person to tag an object got to take it home.

Facebook users started embedding links and images in their own profiles and across news feeds. In turn, thousands and thousands of users willing
ly promoted IKEA. The cost of reaching out to thousands of these users was just that of giving away some furniture.

Social Media Marketing versus Traditional Marketing
There are several avenues through which social media marketing scores over other traditional methods:

•Viral Nature
Consumers initially targeted via social media pass along marketing messages to a large number of their friends and the overall growth of marketing campaigns snowballs very quickly. Most recently, Harley-Davidson zeroed in on social media marketing. They launched social media initiatives on Facebook on July 2008 by creating an account for their brand. They accrued 145,904 fans on Facebook within a period of just 10 months.

•Focussed and Targeted Growth
The rise in fan base achieved by Harley-Davidson was purely through organic growth, without any promotional pushes. Such growth helps companies to reach out to like-minded people, to fish where the fish are, so to speak. Hence, marketing campaigns can be designed in a focussed and targeted way.

•Voice of the Customer
One of the greatest advantages for social media is the voice of the customer. If Harley-Davidson posts a question, such as, ‘Are you in favor of darkening the bike out, blackening the bike out or shiny chrome?’ it is not unusual to receive 300 to 500 comments. Social Media marketing helps companies to intercept what consumers are saying about its brands outside its walls.

•Harnessing Influential Personalities
Traditional marketing often uses celebrity influence to further their brands. Nowadays, bloggers and site owners also represent an exceptional and dedicated segment of the communications and media landscape and their influence is on the rise. Social media marketing helps in harnessing their support and promotion through such endorsers is more economical as well.
HP used this influence to their advantage by providing 31 HP laptops to bloggers to create their own unique contests specifically catered to their readers, winners of which would receive the HP laptops (one per blog). The promotion spread over 31 days, garnered positive discussion about HP on the internet which quickly led to a rise in sales. HP registered a 84% increase in sales of the model being promoted and 14% overall increase of traffic on their website.

• Economics
The total cost of the HP promotion was that of the systems given out and shipping; this amounted to just $ 250,000. The economics of social media initiatives usually compares very favourably in terms of economics with traditional marketing methods producing similar benefits.

Social media marketing offers a unique opportunity to marketers to achieve marketing success by making best use of its viral and focussed nature. The trick to perform well in this game is to understand the forces that guide human interaction and creating innovative campaigns to harness these forces.

Several successful social media marketing campaigns show us that if the campaign is well designed and is innovative enough to create a buzz, the cost of marketing is really low in social media marketing. Hence, in future one expects to see more creative talent in social media marketing and campaigns which will extend the boundaries of creativity these forces.

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