Social media, in all its varieties, is making a big impact on consumer buying habits and becoming a legitimate promotional medium for businesses of every size. Yet, traditional marketing sometimes sits uncomfortably with social media. In particular, the six elements of the classic marketing mix, i.e. advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion, have to be reconsidered in the light of this new paradigm shift. It requires marketers to keep their products and, more importantly, their brands relevant and ever present in the minds of consumers.
A traditional marketing mix allows marketers a high level of control over the content that is communicated, and more importantly withheld, from their consumers. For example, paid advertising can be crafted and molded down to the finest detail while placement and volume of the content can be regulated on seemingly infinite parameters, such as income level, location, and gender, just to name a few. In addition, coverage in newspapers and television reports, while not completely under control, can be heavily influenced.
In contrast, the rise of social media presents serious challenges. An unhappy customer would in the past share a negative experience with, say, ten friends; now, a simple click of a mouse reaches millions. The problem for marketers today is that falling back on the old ways risks alienating consumers, because they no longer take their message literally. To create value in the mind of a potential buyer, the focus has to shift towards the integrity of the product & service as it appears to a consumer. This is largely a function of the experiences and opinions of a peer group, which offers many more pointers than any ad campaign can.
In order for a marketer to effectively embrace social media as a primary medium–many already have– marketers must transition from talking at the customer, to talking with the customer. Through Facebook, MySpace, and online blogs, there is an immeasurable amount of communication that happens between consumers. Marketers must find creative ways of directing these conversations, involving themselves, and, most importantly, listening to what’s being said. Using this information, adjustments can be made to more effectively serve buyers’ needs.
Fortunately, social media has exposed many inconsistencies and defects in products & services that had previously been excused and/or written off by buyers as the occasional, seemingly unavoidable, case of “buyers’ remorse”. Now, the consumer-to-consumer communication occurring on social media sites is helping buyers choose the highest value and quality offering around. Products & services that pass through the filter of social media raise their brand to the very top.
By Evan Kramer