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How to Effectively Use Social Networking Sites for MarketingChapter Writing

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¶ … Social Networking for Marketing

To understand social media it is important to understand that it is essentially about relationships, not the medium. Social media can be broken down as an assortment of technologies which share certain defining characteristics: Participation, Openness, Conversation and Community. The technology promotes involvement and active feedback from the public and those who it engages with as it blurs the lines between creator and receiver. This leads to encouraging audience voting, commenting and the widespread distribution of information. This results from an absence of barriers to accessing and contributing new material, for example password protection and pay walls are discouraged. In contrast to traditional media where the focus is on "broadcasting" (i.e. content sent and distributed to a passive audience), social media can be understood as a give and take between the news source or company and the public. In effect, social media gives power to communities to form and communicate rapidly among individuals who share common interests, such as fandom of a certain team, a political affiliation or a favorite author. The majority of social media is based on this sort of connectedness as individuals utilize links, resources and people to drive the technology and any marketing business model based on it.

Social networks can be defined as the interaction between individuals with organizations that are connected in a variety of social ways, such as friendship, family or socioeconomic class. These social structures have existed in all human society but require significant effort to maintain. Geographical distance, time constraints and simple human laziness often led to people drifting in and out of their social networks. Social media and the internet have revered this phenomenon by establishing a platform that made it easy, simple and reliable to stay in contact with their social framework. When individuals join a social network they design a profile and then compose a network by connecting to friends and contacts in their existing social network or by inviting real-world friends to join the social media network. Social networking has since taken on a different meaning and is usually thought of in conjunction with social networking sites. These sites permit individuals to connect through virtual communities similar to their physical social networks. (Goh & Silverman, 2008) Recently social networking sites have been emerging at a frequent rate offering novel features to distinguish themselves, making it easy for the consumer to feel overwhelmed. The following four sites have established themselves by passing information across and may prove useful in everyday life and career.

MySpace built a lot of its popularity around its music services. MySpace, for instance, allows members to create vivid, chaotic home pages (they've been likened to the walls of a teenager's bedroom) in essence sharing any information you intend to share and express your business or personal ideas as necessary using discretion. Over three million bands and musicians registered on it, trying to attract a fan base from the 200 million registered accounts any business can definitely gain from this idea following the same footsteps in attracting clients/services. According to Hitwise, in September 2006 MySpace was the 8th largest referrer of traffic to HMV.co.uk, more than the MSN search engine.

In 2007, Facebook came onto the social media scene across American colleges. It then gradually became available for public use. Facebook is now the second most-trafficked social media site globally, with upwards of 80 million regular users. Though the site started out as simply a social networking medium exclusively for college students, it has since opened its doors to anyone, and those 25 years old and older are actually the fastest growing demographic. Part of Facebook's appeal is its decision to 'open up' and allow the wider public and private entities to design applications and run them on Facebook without a fee. LinkedIn focuses on professional relationships, and boasts "an online network of more than 20 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 countries." According to Nielsen Online, LinkedIn has the fastest year-on-year growth of the top ten social networking sites -- a whopping 361% from April 2007 to April 2008.3 LinkedIn's philosophy is that "relationships matter." When you create your LinkedIn profile, you should fill up your professional accomplishments as accurately as possible. Providing such information will help you find and be found by colleagues, clients and business partners. Business can also create their profile where employee can link to and then link their friends or colleagues who may become potential business partners, coworkers write references for each other or introduce business contacts to each other in a professional manner.

The reason that different social networking sites exist and thrive is that they serve different niches. Facebook, for example, is a medium to interact, advertise, connect and share updates as well as new information to consumers. Interaction on Facebook is very casual and companies, governments, even national leaders now have Facebook fan-pages where they share current information as well as news, within and outside the organization where applicable. While Social Media and Social Networking could be used interchangeably their differences between them are just about as vast as night and day.

In short, social media is a novel means to share, transmit and receive information with a wide audience. Every individual in the social network has the ability to create and distribute content equally. All one needs is an internet connection and you're ready to actively participate. On the other hand, Social Networking is an act of engagement. Groups with common interests, or like-minds, associate together on Social Networking sites and build relationships through community, without the need to interact with the wider world and those with different views.

Communication Style

Social Media can be compared to a communication channel. it's a medium that delivers a message. Like television, radio or newspaper, Social Media isn't a location that you can visit. Social media is inherently a mechanism to disseminate information to friends and strangers alike. While in Social Networking, communication is two-way. Depending on the topic, subject matter or culture, people seek to join others with similar life experiences and backgrounds, conversations are key to social networking and through them relationships are established.

Return on Investment

One of the challenges of marketing within social media is that it can be difficult to get precise numbers for return on investment. How can one put a numeric value on the excitement and energy of online conversations about one's brand, product or service? This doesn't mean that investment capital is not important, it just means that the tactics used to quantify are different. For instance, influence, or the depth of conversation and what the conversations are about, can be used to gauge ROI. Social Networking's ROI is a bit more obvious. If the overall internet traffic to one's website is rising and you're diligently increasing your social networking, one probably could attribute the rise in online visitors to your social efforts to attract customers.

Timely Responses

Social media is hard work and requires time. One can't automate individual conversations unless you have a solid and respected brand name and establishing one does not occur overnight. Social Media is definitely a long haul effort and not a sprint but Social Networking is direct communication between the marketer and the people you choose to connect with, conversations are richer, more purposeful and more personal and direct and your network exponentially grows as you meet and get introduced to others.

Marketing through Social Networking Sites

Social network marketing is taking on the full appearance of conventional marketing in one important aspect: you still have to go where the customers are and, increasingly, that means having a plan with multiple outlets and shades of messaging. If you offer products that appeal to a broad audience you still need to ensure your efforts are covered or you'll lose business.

The Wisdom of Crowds (2004) by James Surowiecki and Crowd Sourcing (2008) by Jeff Howe provide many of the ideas behind today's social marketing. Surowiecki documented the three conditions for successful crowd wisdom -- diversity, independence and decentralization. In social marketing, it is important to first discover what the marketplace (the masses) needs and then find the most effective way to deliver it. So, knowing customer demographics is important especially in situations where you want to discover something that you weren't aware of.

There are two ways to analyze customer participation through Social Media. The first is by tracking the overall number of members and the second is through understanding the percentage of members who actually participate. And of course, knowing something of the demographics of all participants is absolutely critical. Recent research from a variety of sources illustrates how serious the challenge is for marketers. For instance, last year a study at Harvard Business School by Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski and MBA student Bill Heil, showed that ninety percent of the tweets on Twitter came from the ten percent most active members. Their data also showed that more than half of the 300,000 survey… [END OF PREVIEW]

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