Social media has grown tremendously and is a powerful entity that businesses are keen to make use of for getting a share of the online community's attention.
One reason why social media and social networking sites are being looked at as hunting grounds for potential customers is that in these places peer opinions count for a lot. It is not a marketer making his pitch but a product or service user who makes his opinion known. A good word from him can elevate a product in a forum where a negative experience can seriously downgrade a product or service. The key in online forums, discussion boards, chat-rooms, newsgroups, bookmarking sites, blogs, etc is that by and large the members are very honest, the moderation is strict, debt is encouraged, and users are free to make up their own minds.
Such places online are ideal for creating brand awareness, foster customer loyalty, obtaining customer feedback, and customer input. Brand awareness is created by introducing content in these forums. The content can be in the form of articles, images, videos, flash, etc and it can be made available as web pages, PDFs, streaming media, downloads and more. These combinations are a very potent tool for any business trying to get its message across to prospective customers and also for those that wish to focus on customer retention. It is important that in any CRM endeavor that involves social media business take the time to get the opinion influencers on their side. Monetary compensation can and is often used to get a good word in for products and services. Of course, the spirit of honest communication has to be maintained and to a large extent this is the responsibility of active social networking members.
Customer feedback from online resources is fast and brutal. It is a direct communication that can also happen in real time. Businesses can use the information to better their products, services, and pre-empt any major customer issues in the making. Customers can also offer useful insight into what can be done to add to a particular marketing campaign; incorporating end-user views to the process can be very beneficial as these campaigns are targeted at them. Social media has strengthened the consumer's voice and bought consumer-driven marketing to the fore. Communication between a brand and its user is now on equal terms because of the platform provided by social networks. So, if a business has a loyal customer base, it is well-placed to tap this precious resource for the purpose of spreading its gospel online.
Businesses looking to benefit from social networking should be aware of what they want from it; if they develop their own in-house social networking software they should keep in mind integration with RSS, emails, and other marketing channels. Put metrics in place to measure your efforts, successes and the money that you spend to kick start and maintain momentum with the social media marketing work.