Social media is now a fact of life. The UK Social Media Census 2011 showed that 61% of adults in the UK use some form of social media and the important teens and twenties age groups have an uptake of social networking approaching 90 per cent. Those people are using networks for an increasing number of things including socialising, networking and, importantly for brand marketers, sharing their views on products they use.
The saturation of social media use is changing the way in which marketers are promoting their brands to existing and new users. Social networks open up a whole world of direct interaction with product users and influencers of consumers that was previously impenetrable to marketers and they are taking these opportunities to start discussions and build brand loyalty.
Types of social media user
The Social Media Census identified nine key groups of social media users, which they define as the “9 C’s”. Of these, there are three groups that brand marketers seek to influence in order to gain spread and buy-in from influencers.
The Commercialists group, so called for their use of social media to sell or promote goods, is the circle in which brands and marketers move. Producing and disseminating messages about products and services, marketers need to interact with the other groups in order to get their message across. This group can include the brand marketers themselves but could also include other channels such as complementary brands or dedicated communications channels such as ad media through which marketers may seek to get their message transmitted.
The most important group for Commercialists to link with is the Critics. This group consists of people who actively review or rate services that they use or value. Getting these people on side, particularly those with a large following can help greatly with building an audience and getting new consumers to trust the brand that marketers are selling.
In addition to the Critics, Conversationalists are a useful group of social media users for brand marketers to target. Using social media for discussion, Conversationalists rely on trusted content to share in order to start and maintain their conversations. If Critics provide vital endorsement, Conversationalists give the opportunity for the message to be spread widely across social networks and connect with people in ways that traditional media may not reach.
Creating engaging content
One of the ways in which social media has changed brand marketing is in the way in which content is created and distributed. These days, there’s nothing so musical to the ears of a brand marketer than hearing that their campaign has “gone viral”. As a result, the creation of content that is different to that shared through traditional media has taken off and led to marketing creative’s looking at different kinds of content to entice and engage with consumers.
One way to get people talking is to create something that is risqué or cuts close to the bone. With YouTube, Vimeo and other video sharing sites, advertising that would not be passed as suitable for television broadcast can be posted online and create a buzz amongst net-savvy social networkers who have an eye for the unusual. Using websites such as Digg and Reddit, popular links can quickly take on their own momentum and get more views than marketers would have previously dreamed possible.
Another way to engage with content is to apply the brand to things people can use online. Whether it’s addictive games or mobile apps that places the product on something that has day-to-day utility, getting brands into spaces that were previously impenetrable or didn’t even exist is bringing marketers closer to people than ever before.
The way in which people are using social media gives brand marketers access to consumers in social spaces like never before. By picking the right people to influence and creating engaging content, marketers have access to an audience which they never would have dreamed was possible.
By Nathan Griffiths, who’s used a Digital agency in London in the past for brand marketing type work.