THE GLOBAL IMPACT OF SOCIAL NETWORKS IN MARKETING

Social networking also referred to as social media. The growing usage of social media indicates a potentially effective new platform for advertisers. Social Media, today, is among the ‘best opportunities available’ to a brand for connecting with Prospective consumers. Social media is the medium to socialize. These new media win the trust of consumers by connecting with them at a deeper level. Social media marketing is the new mantra for several brands since early last year. Marketers are taking note of many different social media opportunities and beginning to implement new social initiatives at a higher rate than ever before.

Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. One cannot afford to have no presence on the social channels if the competitor is making waves with its products and services. The explosion of social media phenomenon is as mind boggling as that and the pace at which it is growing is maddening. Global companies have recognized social media marketing as a potential marketing platform, utilized them with innovations to power their advertising campaign with social media marketing.

—————————————————————————————————————- KEY WORDS: Social networking, Marketers, Socialize, Media SOCIAL NETWORKING Social networking, also referred to as social media, encompasses many Internet-based tools that make it easier for people to listen, interact, engage and collaborate with each other. Social networking platforms such as Face book, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, message boards, Wikipedia and countless others are catching on like wildfire.

People use social networking to share recipes, photos, ideas and to keep friends updated on our lives. SOCIAL NETWORKING IN MARKETING Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or “updates” with others. Face book, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities. ORIGINATION OF SOCIAL NETWORKING

According to a BBC Radio 4 documentary, the origins of social networking can be traced back to the 1970s. While conducting research for the radio show, The Secret History of Social Networking, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, found that in 1973 the owner of a record shop in Berkeley California placed an analogue computer in his store and invited people to come in and type messages. The computer quickly became a popular attraction, especially amongst University of California students who would come in to the store to post messages and take part in discussions on the analogue machine.

One of the first social networking Web sites, launched in 1997, was SixDegrees. com. This site started the trend of enabling users to create personal profiles and make lists of their friends. Two years after the fall of Six Degrees, Live Journal offered authors options to add a list of friends to their profile page. Other early social networking sites include Friendster and online dateing service Ryze. MySpace launched in 2003. However, the site didn’t start drawing the attention of the masses until well into 2004, due largely in part to MySpace changes that allowed teenagers to join the social network.

Since their introduction, social networking sites (SNS) have attracted millions of users, whereby many people integrate these sites into their daily practices. The conception of Googlebuzz. com has been recently introduced to rival the likes of facebook, which has 350 million users. Here is a timeline to show the progress of the social networking world. 1995: Classmates. com is a social media website created by Randy Conrad. The website helps members find, connect and keep in touch with friends and acquaintances from school life. Classmates has more than 40 million active members in the US and Canada.

In early 2008, Nielson Online ranked Classmates as number 3 in unique monthly visitors among social networking sites. 1997: Sixdegrees. com was named after the six degrees of separation concept and allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances and see their connection with any other user on the site. It was one of the first manifestations of a social networking websites in the format now seen today. Sixdegrees closed in 2007. At its height, the website had about a million users. 1999: Cyworld. com is a South Korean social networking service.

Users can have “apartment like” spaces which make for a sim-world like experience. The ‘cy’ in Cyworld could stand for Cyber; however, it also plays on the Korean word for relationship. A 2005 survey showed that 25% of South Korea was users. 2002: Friendster. com has over 115 million registered users and over 61 million unique visitors per global month. Over 90% of friendster’s traffic comes from Asia. The website is also used for dating, discovering new events, bands and hobbies. 2003: Myspace. com launched after eUniverse employees with Friendster saw its potential and mimicked the more popular features of the social networking site.

Myspace became the most popular social networking site in US 2006. The 100th million account was created on August 9 2006. 2005: Bebo. com is an acronym for “blog early, blog often”. It is similar to other networking sites; the site must include two specific modules, a comment section and a list of users’ friends. The site claims 40 million users. 2006: Facebook. com is the most popular social networking site boasting 350 million users. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg who studied at Harvard University. The websites membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges.

Facebook has met with some controversy being blocked in countries such as, China, Syria and Iran. The original concept for Facebook came from the colloquial name for books given out at the start of the academic year by universities designed to help students get to know one another better. 2006: Twitter. com is a social networking site that that enables its users to send and read messages known as “tweets”. Tweets are text based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the authors profile page and are delivered to the author’s subscribers known as followers.

It is sometimes described as the “SMS of the internet” and is widely popular with about 5 million users. ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN MARKETING: Social media is now increasingly becoming an ingrained aspect of political campaigns, national defence strategies, public policy, public relations, brand management and even intra company communication. Since the major task of marketing as tool used to inform consumers about the company’s products, who they are and what they offer, social marketing plays an important role in marketing.

· Social media can be used to provide an identity about the companies and the products or services that they offer. · Social media helps in creating relationships with people who might not otherwise know about the products or service or what the companies represent. · Social media makes companies “real” to consumers. If they need not just talk about the latest product news, but share their personality with them. · Social media can be used to associate themselves with their peers that may be serving the same target market. · Social media can be used to communicate and provide the interaction that consumer look for.

THE GLOBAL IMPACT OF SOCIAL NETWORKS IN MARKETING According to comScore, a marketing research company that tracks Internet traffic, social networking sites accounted for 13. 8 billion display ad impressions in August 2009, representing more than 25 percent of all display ads viewed online, in a study of U. K. online display advertising on social networking sites. Social media is changing the way marketing is done. No longer can marketers rely on putting out one general message to the public. In Malaysia, 80% of affluent Malaysians use social networking sites.

The opinions of bloggers and friends have become more influential than advertisements. Using social media allows businesses to reduce cost on marketing or connect with customers. A number of Malaysian companies use social network to promote their product or service. A recent example is mobile operator DiGi who used social networking to create awareness on mobile broadband. One of the many campaigns DiGi did was Pimp My Broadband which was a contest allowing people to post up creative videos to the site. DiGi used mostly Face book and Twitter to spread the word and communicate with people.

In another example, the Prudential insurance company was running in December 2009 a contest for which people were asked to guess the retirement fund a fictional character named Adam would need to retire comfortably. This campaign was heavily promoted over social networks and blogs. Most organisations have jumped onto the social networking bandwagon. Large and small organisations alike maintain Facebook fan pages and groups. The leading budget travel airline, AirAsia, has more than 20 different Facebook pages and groups that promote some aspect of their service. It also has Twitter feeds as well as its own social network located at www.

airasia. ning. com. The results have been impressive. It claims to lead all other airlines with a fan base of approximately 100,000. The AirAsia blog is ranked as the world’s second most popular blog site by an airline while CEO Tony Fernandes’ blog is the most popular in Malaysia by a corporate leader. Its YouTube site is very popular while its Twitter account has 15,500 followers. AirAsia’s investment of time and effort to reach out socially to Internet users must be bringing results; it recently announced plans to launch a brand new social network for travellers.

The Nielsen Company estimates online advertising spent on the top social network and blogging sites increased 119 percent, from approximately USD49 million in August 2008 to approximately USD108 million in August 2009. Businesses and professionals are also connecting with one another on social networks. It has become commonplace for professionals to maintain accounts at LinkedIn. Using that platform, businessmen are able to find contacts that they can trust as introductions come from people they know and trust. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IN INDIA – AN OVERVIEW India has 71 million active internet users.

Social Media is really picking up new heights in India. Many companies are coming big way for Social Media Optimization for their Product or Services nowadays. During Election 2009 Social Media was used for Influence Indian Voters. Social Media Marketing in India is being undertaken by brands like Tata Docomo, MTV India, Channel V, Clear Trip, Tata Photon, Axe deodorants, Microsoft, Naukri, Shaadi and many more. Besides, numerous Indian celebrities are also using SMM platform to promote their movies, music and events via Twitter, Facebook and personalized blogs.

Social Media Marketing is also boosting public relations business. Several PR agencies in India are undertaking brand building exercises for corporate organizations, brands and celebrities. However, to the delight of many among us, the biggest gainers from SMM till date have been the organizations from the Not-for- Profit sector. Several Campaigns like ‘Bell Bajao’ and ‘Jaago Re’ have been quite successful on Social Networking Sites. These campaigns have been spreading the word about their cause through blogs, Twitter and Facebook. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING STRATEGIES: SMM is still in its infancy.

Most of the online retailers though appreciate its positives fallouts on the brand awareness and promotion; they are still in the early stages of adoption. For an organization willing to invest in social media marketing, it is important to understand why SMM is an important marketing strategy and how it can help: This is the age of consumer satisfaction. It is not about selling it is more about interacting. There is a lot to learn from the customers. Using social media one can identify customers, listen to their feedback and use them to improve and innovate on products or services.

SMM is not a mass advertising strategy. It can be used to identify peer groups and advertise to that particular group. Social Media can help in identifying influencers and through them one can guide a prospective customer into making a purchase. SMM calls for novel advertising methods as the attention span of online junta is very low. This is largely due to the multitasking phenomena. A person watching a video clip on YouTube might be simultaneously updating a blog, while reading another one and watching friend’s photographs on Facebook.

In order to garner their attention away from distractions the advertisement must be innovative and interesting to hold the imagination and attention of the prospect. At the same time the message must also provoke the recipient into action; like seeking a detailed description of the product/service, or suggesting to a friend, or initiating purchase. So, if the advertisement is trying to sell something then it should be conveniently placed with links so that the prospect can make a purchase with least effort. Similarly Social Media can be used to increase customer loyalty through customer support services and hence improve customer retention.

Social Media Marketing can also be used by brands to ward off any negative publicity. But the brands will have to be cautious here as over doing it may further aggravate their customers / stakeholders. There are many things that social media can do for business. Developing a strategy for using it means that the firms need to think about what they want to accomplish this year and determine how social media fits into the plan. One of the benefits of a social media strategy is the fact that the available tools can customized for their particular needs.

The firms can choose to concentrate their efforts on the sites that seem to offer the best return on investment, while taking a “wait and see” stand on the others. Better Marketing Communications Any marketing campaign is only as good as its effectiveness in reaching the client. As the saying goes, you can have the best product in the world but its success depends on its reach to the customers. One advantage that social media networks such as Twitter, Blogspot, MySpace and Facebook possess is that of cross-communication.

In other words, much of the information is shared across different social sites. In the past, marketing strategies would target a certain audience based on the resources available. These days, however, if a company has a profile page on Facebook, for example, cross talk alone can generate interest, because of the fluidity of social media websites. Social media sites have helped do away with many geographical and communicative borders; companies who have listings with these sites can place themselves in a position where such communication can be just as effective as a targeted marketing campaign.

In the same way, if one person subscribes to a certain company’s web page, it is likely his or her friends will see it and too may become interested. Qualified potential clients can come to the company rather than the other way around! Higher Customer Satisfaction When a company is seen as being active on social media sites, it has just established itself as having its proverbial “finger on the pulse” of modern society. In a very real way, people take notice and assume that the company has something to say, that it is part of the community rather than simply a

static web page. By posting regular updates that subscribers can see, business can appeal to their tastes and, more importantly, that business also has the ability to follow trends and change strategies based on the requirement. A keen observation is always essential for these updates. A close association with current scenario and trends will align the business people to more accurately cater to their audience’s needs. In the past, a happy customer was a customer who could become a regular customer.

Today, a happy customer or client has the ability to recommend a company to others grouped under similar target audience. Social networks can accomplish much of the work that in the past was allocated to the more traditional e-mail campaigns. Stronger Financial Returns This final factor should be the most obvious and, at the same time, the most motivating. It only stands to reason that with a larger target base, sales and publicity will naturally increase.

One important thing to remember is that there are few if any costs when dealing with social sites. In the past, domain names came with a price tag. Even more relevant was the financial burden which often accompanied building a very good website (web design, maintenance, updates, etc). When a company takes advantage of social media, on the other hand, not only does exposure increase if done in the right manner, but also the financial obligation is little, if any. Why, then, are more businesses not taking full advantage of the tools in front of them?

One of the issues is that many out there still consider the social media market a “niche” sector and haven’t fully implemented their campaigns to include social networking as a part of the overall strategy. Other companies state that not all of their employees are open to newer technologies. Still others just don’t have correct media policies in place; i. e. what can be said, how it can be said, the chain of command to approve updates…the list can go on and on. The main issue tends to revolve around the adaptation to changing technologies and sources of revenue. CONCLUSION:

There is no escaping social media these days, either for individuals or for businesses. Today, it is impossible to separate social media from the online world. Companies are diverting resources and rethinking their traditional outreach strategies. And as the social media wave dissipates into the vast ocean of connected experiences, the term itself will become an entry in dictionaries and encyclopaedias and we will embark on a new era of knowledge, accessibility and experiences unbound by distance, time or physical walls. It is high time that every business adopts social media and takes it seriously!