The emergence of social networks has overturned old marketing practices. Here is an overview of the basic principles of this new type of corporate communication.
In the past, companies with sufficient resources would come up with an advertising message which they would aim at the widest possible audience, whether through television, radio or direct mail to households. This random trawling was based on the idea that out of the millions of targeted consumers, there would necessarily be some consumers prepared to make a purchase. This mass marketing method has recently been replaced by social marketing. Social marketing operates on the principle of intelligent targeting of the advertising message.
An additional emotional connection
Rather than bombarding people with slogans, social marketing relies on social networks to create communities already interested in the company’s product, brand or services. It enables companies to communicate directly with their consumers, find out their expectations, respond to their grievances and anticipate their demands. In brief, social marketing creates an additional emotional connection between company and consumer.
In return, this method requires a certain open-mindedness and a high level of responsiveness on the part of the company. Virtual communities only work if they provide an opportunity for horizontal exchanges between the consumer or business partner and the company. Otherwise, the company’s page on the social network, as flamboyant as it may be, will soon be meaningless and abandoned by consumers.
Most entrepreneurs certainly already have an account on one or more of the main social networks. It may be very tempting to create, in just a few minutes, a myriad of accounts or blogs for the company on various social networks. But, as in any marketing strategy, you should not dive straight in but ascertain as precisely as possible what your goals are and what the target audience is, and only then choose the appropriate tools.
Principles of online marketing
Use of social networks gives the following advantages to companies that use them correctly:
- Increase in traffic to the company’s website. The most obvious consequence of an effective use of social networks is an increase in traffic to the company's website, which acts as both shop window and virtual store.
- Communicating quickly and efficiently. Social networks enable the company to immediately distribute important news about its business or sector.
- Creating a community. One of the revolutions brought about by social networks is the option companies now have of creating a community of interest around their brands, services or products.
- Entering into a dialog with customers. Being present on a social network means giving yourself the unique possibility of entering into a dialog directly with customers or company partners on an informal basis. It’s an effective way of ascertaining and responding to their demands while showing everyone else that you are open to discussion.
- Establishing a relationship of trust. Customers prefer to contact companies they know. A company communicating effectively on social networks increases its credibility and level of trust with its potential customers and business partners.
- Exploring the market. In addition to assessing consumer demands and expectations through social networks, you can also use tools such as online questionnaires to conduct surveys.
- Gathering data. Interaction on social networks in some cases makes it possible to not only create and expand a database for sending e-mails or newsletters, but also obtain relevant information such as age, social status, etc. and establish statistics about consumer profiles.
Sources: Réseaux Sociaux et Entreprise: Les Bonnes Pratiques, Christine Balagué and David Fayon, Pearson, 2011; Le Marketing en Ligne, Jon Reed and Christine Balagué, Pearson, 2011.