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Maureen Stephenson: Using whatever works to save money

Know the Score

Posted: May 1, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
In these revenue-tight times, small-business entrepreneurs are cutting corners where ever they can.

Marketing seems to be the most flexible area for most businesses, so many are turning to employing the Internet social channels to boost their bucks. They’re using venues like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Are these measures paying off? Well, most people seem to be doing it on faith, since proving ROI is hard to do. The most measurable effectiveness seems to come by way of brand awareness.

According to a report published last month by a research firm Aberdeen Group, 21 percent of best-in-class companies planned to boost their social-media marketing budgets by more than 25 percent this year. The report was based on an online survey of 275 senior marketers from a diverse sample of companies. IBM Corp. has aggressively used social media in its marketing efforts for more than a year, employing thousands of bloggers, dozens of online communities and social media campaigns around specific products. They think of it as a collective approach versus one that’s controlled.

For example, IBM just launched the second phase of “Mr. Fong Lost in Space,” a viral video campaign that encourages users to help the character find his way back to his IT team on Earth using IBM Rational Software products. The whole point of the campaign is not only to have people do what IBM wants — to register, download the product and test it — but also to create an affinity with Mr. Fong and with IBM.

The whole point of using the social sites on the Internet is to build a following for your product and your name. This can be done by posting a blog on Facebook or Twitter, or even showing a side of you or your product by doing your own online video for YouTube.

It’s amazing how this social community on the Internet can get awareness of your name or product out to the public by simply posting some blogs.

You post an interesting and informative piece on a blog and soon two or three (or more) people have jumped onto that conversation. They’re  either asking questions or starting some type of dialogue about your posting. Another thing to remember is that we’re talking about the “www” — that stands for “world wide web,” so your little posting can be read all over the world.  This is much better exposure than you could get by buying advertising.

Twitter allows users to post 140-character updates on their site, and much of the business-to-business traffic on Twitter is from marketers talking to each other about how to use Twitter. It seems that every day, another B-to-B market or media company jumps on the bandwagon, using this platform to converse in nearly realtime with customers and prospects.

These shorthand conversations can be diverse and varied, from news alerts, tips, responses to complaints or questions, and updates about events. Perhaps you’re planning a sale on a certain date or theme. If so, this is the place to talk it up. Twitter is also a great way to engage with your customers. By listening to what they are saying about your product, you have a jump on making improvements or corrections.  It’s also a way of creating spin-offs of a product by listening to customers that say they like the product but wished it just did xxxxx (whatever). You can update the current product, or create another one that takes care of the consumer’s wishes. And remember, this consumer satisfaction survey didn’t cost you a penny.

This new type of online marketing may seem greatly removed from what entrepreneurs are familiar with, but remember — if you don’t move with the trends of the times, you’re going to get run over.  P.T. Barnum said that the best type of advertising is word of mouth, and this is using the Internet as your mouthpiece.

Maureen Stephenson is a local author and owner of Santa Clarita-based REMS Publishing & Publicity. Her column represents her own views and  not necessarily those of The Signal.

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