The social networking craze is one of the greatest opportunities presented to marketers in many years… if they can figure out how to harness its potential. The power of person-to-person communication based in communities of people with shared interests makes it possible to engage customers in conversation and more importantly, allow them to take charge of the conversation. It is less about creating exposure and more about establishing rapport with people.
A recent study by research firm Gartner reflects both the promise and pitfalls of social networking as a marketing platform. The study predicts that 75% of Fortune 1000 firms will have some type of social networking initiative in the near future. That figure is indicative of the promise that social networking as a means of getting feedback from customers and enabling word-of-mouth communication and community building. It is indicative of the promise if marketers use social networking in a way that supports overall marketing strategies.
Unfortunately, the expectation is that half of the companies employing social networking initiatives will experience failure of those initiatives. Why? It is a problem of “leap before you look.” If a brand rushes to establish a presence on Facebook or MySpace, what does it expect to achieve by being there? Are social networking tools used by your target market? If yes, how do they use them? To search? To listen? To talk? To meet others? These questions go unasked too often, and the result is usually disappointment that social networking did not pay off. How could it if there is no strategic focus for it to play a role in brand building and customer relationship development?