Social media went from a tertiary consideration for adventurous brands to a must-have for most in a few short years. It’s become one of the most important communication channels for marketers for three simple reasons. First, social media has achieved complete mass market uptake. Second, it enables the most powerful form of marketing: word-of-mouth advertising. Finally, social media holds the tantalizing promise of exponential returns to a marketing budget.
Looking first at social media’s market penetration, with 1 in every 3 people on the planet now online, according to the Internet World Stats, it’s safe to say that digital and social media are well-entrenched in everyday life. In developed markets such as the United States, Britain and Russia, roughly half of adults use Facebook and similar social websites, according to the Pew Research Center. Canada has the 2nd highest engagement across the globe, with consumers spending more than 41 hours per month online on their desktop computers, as found by comScore.
And what motivates millions of people of all ages to spend their spare time typing comments and posting photos and videos online? The answer is that it’s in our nature. Humans are inherently social and creative creatures. Social media offers the ability to have a say on any topic at any time, unleashing a great outpouring of self-expression.
Of course, a popular topic for online discussion is the brands consumers love and those that have disappointed them. This chatter fuels the most powerful form of advertising: word-of-mouth. Always valued by marketers, word-of-mouth has truly come into its own with the advent of social media. It can be encouraged at every point of online contact and spreads instantly across the digital universe.
That leads to one of the most significant reasons why social media is so important to brands: It holds the promise of exponential returns. It’s a marketer’s nirvana: the campaign that, as Thomas Gensemer describes it, “breaks into the zeitgeist beyond the brand.” Gensemer, managing partner at Blue State Digital, is best known for initiatives that became broad-based movements, including the 2008 Obama campaign and the anti-bullying project It Gets Better. For any brand, the hope is that social media will enable its message to travel far beyond what any marketing budget could buy.
In my next post, I’ll look at the strategic and production hurdles that marketers need to jump if they want to take advantage of all that social media offers.