Social Media - Business Marketing Tool

Joe D

When you hear the phrase “social media,” chances are your first thoughts go to the legions of today’s youth who spend countless hours posting messages, updating Facebook pages and “tweeting” their every move to Twitter. But believe it or not, social media has become a major marketing tool for many companies across the country and around the globe. The same technologies that make it easy for teens to “market” themselves into social circles and meet new friends can effectively be used to market businesses into diverse markets and reach new customers or clients.

A study conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at Dartmouth chronicled social media usage in 2007 and 2008 revealing an upward trend of 91% of professional firms utilizing at least one social media tool in 2009, with 75% of those users stating that they were “very familiar” with social networking. The wide spectrum of social networking, which includes blogging as well as name-brand tools such as FaceBook and Twitter, with MySpace less influential, has seen the most growth in adoption by professionals. In the same time period, other technologies that many predicted would continue to grow, such as wikis and online video, have seen a decline in use.

Despite its somewhat annoying name, Twitter has caught on the most with more than half of businesses polled confessing to “tweeting.” This service is being used in many ways, the most productive including keeping in touch with customers/clients, alerting customers to new products, sales or trends and developing a more familiar/friendly relationship with consumers through regular communication.

For social networking it seems as if everything is moving up. In fact, the only thing that has dropped compared to surveys as early as 2007 is the percentage of companies that did not use any form of social media. In 2007 that figure was 43%, but in 2009 it was a mere 9%. It seems everyone sees the benefits to utilizing social media technology in some capacity to increase and improve business.

So who is holding out? Who is in that 9%? The survey also revealed that larger, more traditional companies such as those listed in the Fortune 500, were taking longer to jump on the social media bandwagon. Private US companies were the largest percentage of the group who had expanded their use of social media in recent months. Those who found success stated that they tracked the benefits by measuring hits, comments to their company’s websites as well as leads and sales as primary indicators. Companies were also paying close attention to mentions of their brands in the social media community among other bloggers and non-company participants, up to 68% in 2009 climbing steadily from 60% in 2008 and 50% in 2007.

What does 2010 hold for your social media involvement? What new trend will catch on?