There is little doubt of the phenomenal success social networking sites are witnessing as the digital age continues to grow and grow. However, what impact does this have on companies and brands that are becoming entwined in the movement, through their own choice or through their target markets’ lead? This article entry outlines some of the key pros and cons that companies face in relation to social networking.
Lets start optimistically and look at the advantages that beckon:
An all time favourite marketing tool has to be Word Of Mouth (WOM). It is the most powerful marketing initiative that a company could ever hope for. To have consumers talking about your brand, comparing notes, and actually unconsciously building brand awareness for your company!
Therefore in this instance social networking sites that allow consumers to discuss your brand to people all over the world, has to be a good thing! Getting the word out about your brand is one of the hardest things to do effectively, and if your customers are willing to discuss your brand, then this is a clear advantage over your competitors.
Consumers like to feel that they have the upper hand in any commercial relationship. Social Networking sites allow consumers to talk freely with others about their consumer experiences. They therefore feel less inhibited and are more likely to be honest about their feeling towards particular brands.
An added advantage that WOM brings to any marketing strategy is that it increases brand equity and trust. Consumers are more likely to believe another consumer when they comment that the product/ service is excellent, than if the company itself purports these claims. So if people are talking favourably about your company online, it’s a great boost to your equity status!
Social Networking sites work 24/7 so are available to consumers at a time when it is convenient to them. A lot of advertising messages are ignored or discarded because people are not in the right frame of mind to listen. This problem is resolved through social networking sites as people are more receptive to messages and more willing to digest information.
Relationship Marketing has become a huge buzz word in the industry. More and more companies are trying to build closer alliances with their target market and enter into ‘commercial friendships’. Social networking sites allow this transition, as interaction and the breakdown of barriers are possible.
Now, for all those pessimists out there, here are the cons!
We have heard about WOM and how good words can increase brand equity. But what about the other side of the coin? What if a group of consumers do not agree with your company or have had a bad experience. With a bit of fire in their bellies they can really damage your reputation.
As the consumer gains power in the relationship, the company looses power. This can be disastrous for a company, as they are unable to control the marketing of their own product, and have to be more cunning to continue to hold authority.
Lastly, with more interaction taking place online through various mediums, it becomes very hard for a company to monitor their target markets’ perception of the brand, and identify all comments that are floating around the internet. In essence they loose a big part of their corporate power.
So what do you think of the relationship between the impending domination of social networking sites and corporate organisations. Is it a good marketing tool, or is it something that should be avoided at all costs?