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Advertising Through Social Media: Is It Worth the Return?

For many small businesses, Facebook appears to be the answer, but is it? I love Facebook but do consumers? Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites in the world today. According to Facebook statistics, it currently has over four hundred million active users, that is slightly more than the estimated population of the United States at 307,212,123 (2009, CIA World Factbook). It is no wonder that companies both large and small are attempting to diversity their marketing strategies to include the social media arena. The big question is, is the return worth the concern? The basic structure of social media is that, it is designed to be transmitted through a person’s social interaction online or on a mobile device. Social media relies upon the user to create, edit, and produce the content. According to Wikipedia, “Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.” Web 2.0 primarily consists of web applications which facilitate interactive information where users create, collaborate and exchange content on the web. How then can marketing experts effectively utilize Internet-based social media platforms to generate sales in a highly opinionated and user-centric market, and will the return be worth the concern?

With this question in mind, a media campaign cannot simply place an advertisement on a site like Facebook or even LinkedIn and expect results; it is challenged with the development of communication methods that will 1.) reach millions of users through the different social media platforms and 2.) be relevant to the online user. Consumers today have choices not only as to the methods of communication through their social networks, but also to numerous views from multiple sources such as blogs and mobile applications all of which contribute to consumer awareness and ultimately effect consumer behavior.

Advertisers may find that consumers are conflicted by the information they receive through online social networks. For instance, is the information to be trusted, what is the information’s value, and why am I getting this type of advertisement? According to Jason Falls article “The Problem of Promoting You, Your Cause, Your Business with Social Media” (2009), is that marketing companies must earn trust within the social realm before the can realize any significant returns advertising with it. Accordingly, businesses must first communicate, and contribute to the communities they are seeking to gain trust from, in order to subsequently gain something in return. Falls states, “It’s no longer about one-way communication but a dialog, or as I have argued, a multi-logue where your customers talk with you, you with them, but them with each other in your line of sight. Advertising and similar promotional communications aren’t welcome without some other sort of interaction or engagement.” Businesses must acknowledge that there are different rules and expectations associated with online social communities. Although anyone can join, you may not be accepted.

Many high-profile companies have broadened their media campaigns into the area of social media in hopes to generate interest and sales, ultimately consumer confidence. The head of social media for Ford Motors, Scott Monty, has worked hard to give Ford Motors a social media personality through Twitter and Facebook, promoting these sites through traditional broadcast media. To date, Mr. Monty’s Twitter site has generated an estimated nineteen thousand followers. Monty’s combined use of traditional and social media outlets within the recent Ford advertising campaign successfully resulted in more media coverage. Additionally, Monty’s ability to jump between social and traditional media platforms is driving growth back on social networks. In 2009, Ford Motors successfully launched a campaign seeking brand ambassadors for the return of the Ford Fiesta to the U.S. market under the campaign slogan “Who thinks they’re cool enough to be seen in the 2010 Ford Fiesta.” Previously, Ford Fiesta did rather poorly in comparison to other similar models in the U.S. market. However, the redesigned car gained note among the automotive communities. In the instant campaign, Ford wanted to avoid the past and utilized a new approach with the general public called the Fiesta Movement. The Fiesta Movement was a competition announced through various social sites, Facebook and Twitter. The Fiesta Movement chose a group of one hundred drivers who would act as brand agents driving and promoting a German-built Fiesta prior to the cars official U.S. debut in 2010. Word spread among the sites like a wildfire and soon Ford was overwhelmed with applicants. Contestants were screened for “a strong presence on the web, an ability to craft a compelling story through video, and a hunger for adventure.” (Ford Motors, 2009) What makes Fords Fiesta Movement campaign so unique is that it required community participation in order to fuel the competition. The website was designed to upload videos, get tweets, texts anything to generate attention. Ford’s rules to the public were: “Every time you send a text, leave a comment or check in with your favorite agent team—you’re fueling the competition. That’s because they’re all competing for your attention. You not only get to decide what’s remarkable, but if your local team has what it takes to compete against others from across the nation.” (Ford Motors, 2009) Winners of this competition would receive a 2011 Ford Fiesta. The idea and achieved results and outcome were a success.

In spite of Ford’s success using the social media advertising platform, the use of social media is still a challenge for most businesses and organizations large and small. According to a recent survey by Mzinga and Babson (2009), 86 percent of all business professionals say they have adopted social media in some way; however, 84 percent of these same professionals state that they fail to measure return on investment affiliated with their social media campaigns. It appears that many companies just haven’t devised metrics to do so. Many companies rapidly engaged in social media without thinking about the consequences and the tools needed to gage the results. It’s easy for marketing and advertising firms to say, “Social media will improve customer retention,” but it may just not be true. For any business to potentially succeed in the area of social media they need to be able to measure its cost, time, and impact, whether it is positive and negative. In order to analyze the return, the advertising campaign needs to establish specific goals, and understand what they are trying accomplish with their brand. Is the goal to increase sales or is it the goal to promote events or organization. According to Djambazov (2010), research estimates that social media comprised of 3 percent of all interactive marketing to be spent in the United States in 2010. This is the greatest increase of growth in any advertising channel over the next four years. As the social media’s channel grows so will the pressure to quantify its results against its costs.

Thus, while social media provides yet another useful advertising platform, without metrics to evaluate the return on investment it may just be misplaced. As demonstrated in the example of Ford Motors; social media can be extremely valuable structured correctly to encourage the interactions and feedback amongst the target groups and when used in conjunction with traditional media platforms. Some argue that social media has become the new tool for effective business marketing and sales, but only if businesses are ready to interact with consumers and communication as people.

 

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