Social and mobile media is radically changing the way consumers are informed on everything from national news events like the recent Boston bombings to how and where they shop, make their dinner reservations and even how they hail a cab.
It comes as no surprise that companies are shifting more of their marketing budgets around social media messaging. Most are aggregating consumer posts through analytical data gathering to better target advertising and others are using crowd messaging via content blog posts. Experts say companies know they need to harness the power of social media but many are struggling to figure out how.
Sears, Tyson Foods, local startup Btiques and Siloam Springs-based DaySpring were among the 300 attendees looking for some answers at the SoFabCon this past weekend in Rogers. The Social media conference for bloggers and brands was held by Collective Bias with the help of Nestle, a key sponsor for the three-day event.
Bentonville-based Collective Bias works on behalf of suppliers and retailers who use social media content to expand brand awareness and increase consumer loyalty. Information is shared through three main outlets – advocates close to a cause, influencers sharing messages via social channels and traditional media.
Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! and a contributor to Forbes, said over the past five years the balance of power has shifted from media broadcasting a controlled message from a big stage, to crowd sharing an uncensored, unedited view from the front row in real time through social media platforms. He said influencers such as bloggers and experts from within professional ranks are gaining steam with the help of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
“It is not uncommon to see active bloggers on certain subjects garner up to a million followers within a year’s time once integrated with social media, which acts like rocket fuel.” Fidelman said.
Companies are active in this space and finding it’s much less expensive to harness the power of social media to share their brand messages than to broadcast ads though traditional media sources. In the shift of influential power, Fidelman said, trust is the ultimate currency as 73% of consumers rely on the trust they have for a company when they buy a product or subscribe to a service.
Yet the old “Mad Men” advertising model is still getting the majority of company marketing budgets.
“I dare say that won’t be true five years from now. The old broadcast model will still be around, but it will not be relevant,” Fidelman said.
These changing times will force companies to revamp the way they reach their customers as Fidelman said 77% of consumers admit getting information through social channels. This segment is then going to news links, that have been filtered or curated from an influencer, someone they trust and follow.
Fidelman said only 28% of consumers under age 30 watch local television, a statistic that is also staggering. He encouraged retail brands like Wal-Mart who traditionally use banner advertising to consider co-creating ad content that might incorporate a social audience on Pinterest. He said supplier and product brands like Procter & Gamble could follow the lead of IBM to elevate their own core of professional experts to blog on specific topics.
“Companies today are primarily known as a logo, but by elevating professionals from within who share their expert voice in a social channel that logo takes on a human face which can help build consumer trust levels with that brand,” Fidelman said.
Tami Cannizarro, executive director of marketing for IBM, said she routinely approaches professionals from within her firm to establish subject blogs that has helped IBM expand its image from a multinational technology company to include consulting.
Today, IBM consults with hundreds of small businesses on various topics from business strategy to supply chain management.
Fidelman said IBM’s embrace of social media and willingness to expand services is a great model for other companies to follow.