What started with a spark of instant messengers has now become a wild forest fire of social media!
Social networking came up as a medium to stay in touch and has now become an industry with something for everyone. Social media may be defined by oxford dictionary as ‘websites meant for social networking’, in today’s world, a lot more goes into it. Every possible brand you can think of is on social media. It is growing and this growth is here to stay.
If television is a good way to reach people, social media is better in some more aspects. Although it may not reach a vast audience as television, but a majority of the people are constantly connected to social networks these days. So here Social media has an upper hand. But we can’t solely talk. As management guru Edward Deming would say: “In God we trust, everyone else must bring data.” With social media it is difficult to generate statistics of how much a business was influenced purely by it. But as has been observed, it cannot be something which you can turn a deaf ear to. The marketing world needs to stop being so afraid and start solving problems, according to Cindy Gallop, an entrepreneur and consultant whose prescription for growth calls for synthesizing creativity and data collection. This is where Social Media steps in.
The idea that social media can address business needs is an interesting one. As goes with any business, strategy plays an important role in social media marketing (SMM) too. Based on the target, social media can be utilized in different ways to serve the purpose. Target classification tells us what the aim of the marketing is. What we expect from the customer determines our approach to SMM. In simple words, if we aim at increasing sales, our approach would be different than that for driving visitors to a website. These would just be the business part. Other gains out of SMM are what we call ‘connections’. Creating awareness of a brand/product or publicity through word of mouth would be included under this.
The notion of business marketing and awareness works with social media due to a common factor. Jim Tobin rightly compares Social media with a cocktail party. It is a place where people discuss, gossip, chat about various new ideas and topics but none of it can be vouched for. As in a cocktail party, interaction is what social media relies on. Chris Kieff says that the art of reaping outputs using SMM requires patience. To click any deal, we need to connect to our audience and develop a relationship. Quoting him, “(Social Media) takes time and patience to build relationships. If you don’t believe me, try asking the boy/girl to marry you after the first date. It never works.” Understanding what the customers want, determining whom to target, understanding the mentality of the target; it isn’t as simple as it seems.
While it is obvious for big brands like Coca – Cola, Red Bull, Puma etc to be on social media due to the large amount of target audience and easily available virality; brands whether regional or global; small or big are all jumping the social media bandwagon and why? Is it to increase their sales or more interaction with the customers? Well I have an interesting case study for a brand which is most unlikely to be on Social Media.
Government organizations aren’t often known for good social media strategy, but NASA is one of the few that is often mentioned (and in attendance) at social media events. The aerospace organization doesn’t have consumer facing products, but NASA has done an excellent job using social media to engage with people and teach them about America’s space programs.
The NASA web team though relatively very small; takes their social media objectives to reach their audience very seriously.
You will be surprised to know that NASA is present on almost all major Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Slide share, Google Plus, YouTube and Flickr. All their social media platforms depict their objectives and that is to ‘STAY CONNECTED’
NASA set the trend of social media and the principles of openness, collaboration, and authenticity which transformed how the government does business. Social media thus now changed the government contracting process.
NASA has done everything from conventional to wacky. Some interesting NASA campaigns were dedicated apps for space missions, creating dedicated handles for its robots. Fans had the opportunity to find and collect four NASA-related virtual items — a moon rock, a NASA patch, a spacesuit and a space shuttle by checking in to NASA visitor centers, agency-related locations, or one of hundreds of museums, planetariums, observatories, parks, zoos and other locations that are part of NASA’s Museum Alliance. The latest addition to this is the MARS program which is being promoted rigorously.
Not only is NASA one of the few government agencies to be in the business but also the best with 996,630 likes and increasing.
Social Media is one of those areas where the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) Syndrome needs to take a back seat. Being a field which requires high level of creativity, one cannot be sure who will bring it out. Moreover, it is absolutely necessary to realize ground reality of SMM before anyone takes charge. Without understanding that, the HIPPO can take you to nadir.
Now, with numerous different Social Networking sites catering to different kinds of people and their different needs and the web being dynamic as never before, it gets difficult for companies to invest both money and time into SMM. It is now an industry in itself. And by the pace at which it is growing, it would not be a surprise if it will be on par with television in terms of the sought after means of creating awareness!