Since advertising opportunities on social networking platforms were first realized, brands have aimed to walk a fine line between influencing potential customers and directing them. Influencing a consumer involves a suggestion — sometimes subtle, sometimes not –but directing a consumer is seen as an attempt by a brand to elicit a more controlled reaction.
Advertising is influential by nature, but brands whose approach is too aggressive are seen as attempting to be directors in the world of social media & are unlikely to succeed. This is not so much a flaw in their marketing strategy as it is a misunderstanding of social media from a consumer’s perspective. If your social media marketing efforts require consumers to react in a specific way in order to be successful, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
A social media marketing campaign, which will inevitably revolve around creating or increasing revenue, should aim to start a conversation instead of a sale. “Start a conversation” is a commonly used phrase in the world of social media, but the value of its meaning is lost on many companies. The fact is that upwards of 70% of Internet users log onto social networks solely to communicate with friends or family. Many of these users are uninterested in interacting with brands directly.
Research from the social marketing firm Get Satisfaction shows that roughly 13% of users regularly seek to engage with brands on social networks. Regardless, those same users are still four times more likely to go directly to a company’s website than a Facebook page for information about products and services. So how can brands hope to attract more customers through social media? It all comes back to starting a conversation.
Social network users are more likely to interact with a brand’s existing customers about a product than with the brand itself, particularly if the opportunity to chime into an existing conversation exists. If a brand or product is a hot topic among a user’s circles, friends, or followers on a major social networking site, the desired influence has been achieved.
The conversation does not need to lead to a sale in order to actively influence consumers, and brands who push to make a sale are more likely to find negative feedback infiltrating those very conversations. Once your brand has sparked a successful conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks — which may involve criticism as much as it may include praise — the next step is maintaining that level of influence so that you can eventually shift your focus to generating more sales.