Need a Primer on Social Media? Read On

SmashLab White Paper Outlines Suggestions and Opportunities

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Interactive agency SmashLab has created a white paper on social media designed as a primer for those who want to learn more about it. Below are excerpts from two sections: opportunities in social media and suggestions on how to use social media.


Connect with passionate users
Applying the principle of the Long Tail, companies can employ social-media strategies to reach audiences who are receptive to their messages.

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As advertisers, we no longer need to interrupt everyone with a message; instead, we can engage interested parties through social media and give them good reason to be our advocates. Apple is perhaps the best example of a company whose users take a personal interest in promoting the brand they love. There are even a few long-running sites dedicated to sharing rumors and theories about potential product releases from the company.

Create higher levels of engagement
The advertisements featured during the Super Bowl are recognized as an opportunity for Madison Avenue to show off its very best. They come at a premium, with a cost of $2.5 million for a 30-second spot. With the 2007 event, however, the limelight came within reach of the consumer. Prior to the event, Frito-Lay invited users to create ads and asked the community to pick five favorites. One was chosen and aired.

This represents a shift from sending a message to engaging the recipient in it. Companies can invite discussion, allow users to share experiences or involve them in adventures. The point isn't in how it's done; rather, it's in the multitude of ways we have to extend and enhance the brand experience.

Access unfettered customer response
Companies are always looking for ways to access accurate customer responses and insight. Feedback forms are cumbersome and rarely tell much, whereas blogs represent a much more effective method of reviewing community sentiment.

Yahoo Senior VP Jeff Weiner notes, "Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this." We can now tap into timely responses from the public at very little cost. From here, organizations are learning to modify their offerings to better suit their clients and mitigate PR challenges by addressing and minimizing issues before they become damaging.

Value, measurement and refinement
Forrester Research recently pointed to the impressive value of social media, particularly in relation to million-dollar advertising campaigns: "Even more-sophisticated programs like a full-blown customer community typically don't cost more than $50,000 to $300,000 to get going." This, compounded with the ability to measure the effectiveness of campaigns and retool them for greater effectiveness, presents a compelling proposition for marketers.


Determine and measure goals
We ask that organizations first examine the challenges they are facing and then seek out tools (social media or otherwise) that will address these specific issues. The efforts undertaken should be measured with the same scrutiny as traditional marketing efforts.

Offer value
Those who have been least successful in social media have often been so as a result of applying traditional messaging to an environment that it doesn't resonate in. Just like in real life, these communities tend to respond best to authentic, honest and respectable dialogue and conduct. Organizations should concentrate on delivering value to interested parties without immediately concerning themselves with the need to sell product. Effective social-media efforts build relationships between companies and consumers.

Recognize the need to experiment
Given the rate at which social media has become part of the marketer's responsibility, it is important to not hold the bar unreasonably high. The landscape is shifting daily, and groups have to accept that their efforts may not work out immediately.

Social media does present brands with added risks, and it is impossible for these efforts to be controlled in the fashion that traditional media was. That being said, the opportunity to improve a company's offering can (in the spirit of the medium) be informed through the help of the community.

Ask for feedback and listen to what customers are telling you. The signals travel both ways now.
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