Over the past few years, social networking sites enabled by Web 2.0 technologies have dramatically changed the way we use the Internet. What was once a one-way connection has transformed into a dynamic connective medium, allowing users to share a wide range of content including blogs, photos, videos, and much more.
Yet how have social networking sites like Facebook changed the way online marketers advertise online? For one, they've made our jobs much easier. Facebook is the ideal medium for advertising within an environment that's viral by nature. These online social directories use an interactive format that allows users to create a personal profile, connect to other users, and share content.
In a sense, these users have already effectively segmented themselves, coming together through like interest groups and connecting through content. These behaviors, which are inherent to social media and enabled by Web 2.0, create valuable networks of targeted and specific demographic groups. Now more than ever, the "Net Generation" is becoming involved in social media and presenting online marketers with the chance to market to predefined segments of online users, positioning branded messages on sites where these users spend time online.
Moreover, these social networking sites are growing at an exponential rate, adding more and more users from more diverse backgrounds. Initially, Facebook was created only for college students, but last year, it was opened to anyone with an email address. According to Microsoft, Facebook is the sixth most trafficked site in the US, and now has over 73 million registered users in 40,000 different collegiate, high school, work-related, and geographic networks. This represents a 530% growth rate over one year alone.
The tactic through which advertisers communicate with these segmented online audiences is known as Social Media Marketing (SMM) . SMM has become a popular tool for search engine optimization (SEO) thanks to its unique ability to improve website visibility, name recognition, and brand awareness among specific online audiences through the acquisition of a network of relevant links.
So what opportunities does Facebook present for targeted online marketing efforts? Among Internet users ages 18-24, Facebook placed first on the list of favorite sites in Youth Trends most recent survey. Over 70% of females ages 17-25 indicated that Facebook was their favorite site in terms of time spent online. For males, this figure was still a powerful 56%. These demographic is clearly technology-driven, thanks to their growing up in a culture that considers time online an integral aspect of daily life. More than half of those surveyed visited Facebook at least once a day, logging an average of 35 minutes on the site.
Furthermore, these users are familiar with online environments and are adept at seeking out and finding specific pieces of content they're interested in. Thus, social networking sites, especially Facebook, present online marketers with the opportunity to engage users with advertising messages at critical moments of relevance.
So how can we utilize social media marketing to effectively engage these elusive audiences of young adults? Below are several ideas on how to utilize social media marketing on Facebook.
- Connect Through Groups: Facebook has an infinite number of shared interest groups which users join for a myriad of reasons. These groups cover an unlimited number of subjects and interests, from marine biology to snowboarding to politics to rap music to Italian food. No matter what your interest or target market, there is a group for you. Take it from me. I've been a registered Facebook user, or "Facebooker" since 2003, and I've seen a group for everything, literally . Many even have a local focus, like Denver Broncos fan groups or Denver Chinese Students Group. Each of these groups has its own page with a forum, discussion board, photo gallery, etc. This is the best place to position messages meant for specific niche audiences, as you're almost guaranteed everyone who sees it fits your target profile. In the past, when I was trying to drive traffic to a video site I was working for, I placed descriptive and enticing links to relevant videos on the group's "wall," or discussion board. I saw great results as many of the members of this particular group, which was devoted to skiing, followed these links to watch videos about their favorite sport, skiing.
- Connect Through Applications: Recently, Facebook has opened up its platform to outside developers who have created innumerable applications, ranging from fantasy stock picking simulators to video games of "beer pong" to world maps marking desired travel destinations. Users can add as many of these applications as they like to their profiles, creating opportunities for marketers and developers alike to subtly integrate marketing messages into these applications and their functions. Many developers have already done so and are not doubt reaping some major benefits, not only through increased brand awareness but through traffic driven from Facebook, which many have bridged to their own sites.
- Connect Through Content: Because Facebook allows users to post videos, images, links, photos, and more, advertisers can seamlessly utilize social media marketing strategies to connect with these groups through content. By positioning your content where your target audience is, you can be assured your brand will be right in front of their eyes as they interact with your message. Facebook is a repository for an endless amount of consumer data, what many experts have dubbed "a community in a box." So why not leverage this data by getting involved? Connect through content.
- Connect Through Events: As Facebook has grown, it has added an "Events" section where users can post information about upcoming events and then invite their Facebook friends to attend. The entire section of events is searchable, and users can quickly locate events they're interested in, find the host's name, location, time, and even a description of the event. What's more, Facebook gives each event its own page, where users can RSVP, decline to attend, or even post information on the event page's public discussion wall, like what to wear, what to bring, etc. This presents social media marketers with a valuable opportunity to post events and then invite people that are most likely interested in attending. In my own experience with this medium, I've created events for clients and then posted information and invites within groups that align. For example, when promoting an upcoming reggae concert or college football game, find as many groups related to reggae music, college football, music and sports that you can, and post the event information on their group discussion boards to ensure that anyone who's interested now knows and attends.
- Connect Through Mobile Devices: Just this week, Facebook announced that it has partnered with RIM, or Research In Motion, and their BlackBerry device. In addition to BlackBerrys, Facebook is accessible to a wide range of other mobile devices. This presents valuable opportunities for advertisers to reach potential customers on a local level, positioning their company presence at the moment of relevance.
Still, Facebook's explosive growth hasn't been without challenges. In response to criticism from a plethora of groups, Facebook recently added additional security measures in an effort to better protect private information. In addition to assuaging privacy fears, this is sure to encourage more users to join the site and share more information about themselves. Yet this will also force social media marketers to be more innovative and creative when identifying and locating target audiences.
As you can see, Facebook users have taken care of the segmentation process, connecting themselves through content and shared interests. These behaviors, which are inherent to social media and enabled by Web 2.0, create valuable networks of targeted and specific demographic groups. Now more than ever, the "Net Generation" is becoming involved in social media and presenting online marketers with the chance to market to predefined segments of online users, positioning branded messages on sites where these users spend time online.
The company I work for, Fusionbox, a Denver Internet marketing company , uses social media marketing to combine the objectives of Internet marketing with the capabilities of social media sites and Web 2.0 technologies. Click here for more information on social media marketing [http://running-with-the-bulls-seo.blogspot.com/2007/09/social-media-marketing-bridging-gap.html].
Essentially, our SMM services create powerful forms of viral marketing that leverage the large audiences and user communities of social media sites. Whether on MySpace, YouTube, Digg, Facebook, Del.icio.us, Flickr, or any number of others, SMM revolves around the creation and connection of users to companies through unique content.
For this reason, SMM can be utilized to build a network of links, spread brand messages, increase visibility and awareness, and even manage your company's reputation online. After all, these social media sites each have millions of registered users, grouped into like-interest communities. Now all you have to do is discern where your target audience is congregating online. What more could a marketer ask for? No other channel allows companies to declare their identity, service offerings, value proposition and location within such a targeted environment.
Our team of experienced and innovative social media marketers will effectively position your website content in a targeted digital space where it will be seen by those you want to see it.
Fusionbox is a leader in applying Web 2.0 technologies to the Internet marketing domain. Our services have been aptly deemed Web Marketing 2.0 because of our ability to connect clients to customers by engaging the market and initiating conversations through social media.