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Making the social matter in marketing

Although it seems to have been around for an eternity, many are still not fully harnessing the power of social media.

Stepping into the world of social media marketing can still be daunting for those who are more comfortable with traditional channels, and despite their resources, it is often large companies that are slower on the uptake. This shortcoming not only teaches us a lesson about the importance of social media; it also provides smaller companies with a distinct advantage in terms of targeted, effective marketing opportunities.

While the lure of reaching potential customers at the click of a button certainly seems tantalising, just how game-changing is social media marketing in terms of its concrete results? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Just recently the IPA have studied the efficacy of social media marketing, and how best to implement social in amongst other marketing communications.

These are their key findings:

Social media is gaining momentum exponentially, and is now overtaking traditional marketing channels. It is breaking down barriers between consumer and business, and consumers feel it enables them to have their voices properly heard. The healthcare industry is a prime example of this. Advances in social media are now allowing clinics to reach patients online, increasing access to frontline care and professional advice for patients. The continuity of social media means that campaigns are no longer as fixed and rigid as they once were; data interpretation has overtaken data collection.

Social media opens up new areas of insight into the what, how and why of things. NHS Choices brings patients into direct contact with medical expertise as a point of first contact, informing them in a way that allows frontline services to become more targeted. Furthermore, analysis of data from databases such as NHS Choices could, for example, detect a noticeable rise in search enquiries for a certain symptom, thus alerting healthcare professionals to any short- or long-term trends - or even possible epidemics. Using sites like Twitter, healthcare professionals are also much better placed to gain a broader spread for public health announcements.

As more and more businesses now facilitate the inclusion of social media at the heart of marketing campaigns, marketing firms are being given the power to strategise  across many other areas of advertising.

The real-time nature of social media means that integrating the data at each crucial stage of a marketing campaign allows for a more precise delivery, realistic targets and a more effective development plan.  

Knowing your customer’s potential needs and requirements - even before they do - is the Holy Grail of marketing. With social media analytics, the insights gained  are open, honest and highly informative. Nationwide social media campaigns can very quickly snowball from 1 person to a million people. Furthermore, blogs such as NHS Frontline open up the public discourse on healthcare. This highlights current patient and consumer attitudes toward health care, whilst also providing a unique insight into the life of a healthcare professional - giving health care a human face

IPA research has shown that sustained loyalty and profitability are not the result of short, hard-hitting campaigns, but the result of long-term interaction. Social media’s ‘listening ear’, voice platform and up to date news digest grabs people’s attention and then keeps it there.

So, although social media may be transforming lives and businesses, it isn’t a replacement for conventional marketing. Social media not only compliments traditional marketing, but is beginning to overtake it. It is more important than ever. The lessons of traditional marketing give us the power to attract consumer interest. The challenge today is engaging consumers in a discourse. Mobilising the power of social media allows us to overcome this challenge.