What can brands do to reach their consumers through social media? With more and more people living online, an engaging online marketing strategy is more important than ever. According to a new Nielsen Company report , social networks and blogs are now the fourth most popular online category – ahead of personal email. Time spent on social network and blogging sites is growing at more than 3 times the rate of overall Internet growth.
Some key points:
- two-thirds of the online population access social network or blog sites
- time spent on social networking sites now accounts for 1 in every 11 online minutes
- the demographics for social networking is rapidly getting older and broader 
What does this mean for brands? Clearly there is a need for a strategy to address this growing trend in online behavior. In the same way that brands cannot afford to not have a direct outreach solution (e.g. direct email, newsletters, etc), they cannot afford to ignore the social media space. Bottom line: brands need to engage with their consumers living online.
The report cites one key reason ‘traditional’ advertising on social networks hasn’t been as successful as in some other areas: ownership. In a traditional model users are simply consumers of content supplied by publishers. In the social media space, however, users are both suppliers and consumers of content. As such they feel greater ownership over the content they provide and are far less inclined to accept advertising around it.
So what can brands do to break through? They must embrace the space and identify ways to participate and add value. Social networks are all about relationships and how those relationships add value for the participants. Adding value can take many forms; co-creation of content, special offers, exclusive previews, etc.
Social media marketing must be engaging. Rather than simply pushing ads out to social network users advertising needs to be about participating in a relevant conversation with consumers. Social media has brought word of mouth back to the forefront so authenticity is essential. Successful advertising in this space is about creating opportunities to have relevant conversations with consumers and engaging them in a dialogue about their brand.