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Leveraging Social Networking Sites in Marketing Communications

Leveraging Social Networking Sites in Marketing Communications The social media networking websites represent an important media channel for reaching a diverse demography. Nowadays, consumers respond less to traditional marketing and rely more on blogs, mobile messaging, comparison shopping sites etc. What is a social networking website? It’s a website that brings people together in central location to talk, share ideas and interests and make new friends. For e. g. facebook, bebo, myspace, youtube, friendster etc.

What makes a social networking website an important tool for marketing communications? * Increase in number of people visiting networking websites * Increase in advertising spending on social networking websites * Global reach of social networking websites Importance of demographics of social networking website users for marketing communications Although the larger portion of social networking sites is still represented by youth; middle to old age users has also started joining the social networking sites. This gives marketers an opportunity to target niche customer segment.

The four major consumer categories which marketers focus are as follows: * Teens and young adults * Women and mothers * Old age users * Affluent Individuals How marketers use social networking websites for marketing communications? As use of online media grows, marketers can proactively engage their customers on social networking sites such as placing paid advertising, posting comments or feedbacks and adding a link from social networking sites to company’s site. Following are few real life examples of companies that have successfully used social networking websites for: Improving customer understanding ) Unilever: To lunch its sunsilk brand in USA, Unilever targeted 25-year old single women. It started a campaign “Hairpay” which included three actors posing as hair care specialists. The company set up profiles on MySpace for these specialists through which it offered page visitors advice on hair care, dating and women issues. This provided company a platform wherein it could interact directly with its target customers and understand customers’ needs and habits. Unilever’s MySpace profile attracted more than 4000 online visitors in the first two weeks of the campaign. ) Xerox: Second Life is a virtual world created and managed by Linden Labs in which users interact with each other using internet based avatars. Xerox scientists round the world collaborate with customers and determine what features and products customers would like to see Xerox offer. Xerox used second life to launch 15 products on “Xerox Innovation Island”. On the marketing side, Xerox provides 3D virtual demos that customers use to try products and services. Xerox attracted more than five million people to its Second Life virtual island. ) Procter and Gamble: Procter and Gamble believes that a better understanding of women customers could enable more targeted offerings. P&G launched two websites aimed at creating online communities and forums for women to share their stories and learn from each other. P&G links one these websites to its people’s choice awards and allows women to share their views on topics such as entertainment. The other site provides a forum for women to discuss subjects of interest such as parenting, pregnancy and weight loss. This helped P&G to do an extensive market research on a particular customer demographic.

Promoting issues of social concern 1) Virgin Mobile: In 2006, Virgin Mobile USA partnered with Youth Noise, a youth-based social networking website and Stand up for Kids, a non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of homeless children. Through Youth Noise, Virgin Mobile provided its customer a platform where they can interact with each other on a wide array of issues and find ways to help their communities. Virgin Mobile employed various initiatives such as allowing customers to download ringtones from its website and donating 100% profits to non-profit organizations. ) Toyota: Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. , a vehicle manufacturer, launched a social networking website for its community of more than 600000 hybrid, fuel efficient vehicles working on rechargeable battery, owners. This social networking website is a forum where hybrid owners talk about their reasons for driving an energy efficient hybrid car and provide statistics about them and their vehicles. The site also includes features such as gas savings calculator and an interactive distance map which charts how fuel efficient Toyota’s Hybrid vehicles are as compared to gas powered vehicles.

Promoting products and services 1) JP Morgan Chase: JP Morgan Chase sought to encourage the use of credit cards among college students. To promote the chase credit card, the company partnered with Facebook which has a large number of students as members. Banner ads on Facebook invited members to join a special chase network. After joining the Chase online community on Facebook, customers could activate a credit card and can avail other services also. Members also earned reward points for their activities such as paying their bills on time and could redeem these points for prizes. ) Cisco: A supplier of networking equipment and networking management for the internet. In 2006, Cisco bought two Second Life islands to conduct education and training, receive feedback from customers on products and perform presentations. One of the Second Life islands features amphitheatre for mass tutorials, spreading product information etc. The other island provides a community based platform meant to encourage people to discuss its products. Second Life enables Cisco to take advantage of the insight they gain from customer interaction. Facilitating internal knowledge sharing ) IBM: In 2006 IBM partnered with Second Life to establish a virtual business for IBM’s employees and customers. The company bought 12 Second Life islands to serve as a virtual meeting place for current and former employees, an information centre for marketing IBM’s services to customers and a virtual retail area for IBM’s customers to meet and discuss products. Through Second Life, IBM not only gives its geographically dispersed employees a common forum to meet, it also engages its customers in discussions and hence improves customer service.

Increased brand awareness 1) Burger King: To reach its target population primarily composed of younger demographics, Burger King rolled out a campaign on MySpace. It sponsored a special page reflecting the company’s US marketing slogan and used popular Burger King Mascot, The King. Burger King also partnered with Fox Entertainment Group to offer programs such as 24 free of charge to the 75 million members of MySpace. Consequently, MySpace members visited Burger King’s page to download free recordings of their favourite fox shows. ) Honda: In 2007, Honda allowed its customers to shape its marketing message for its new Honda Element SC. The advertising campaign included a variety of animal characters of which one character, Gil the Crab, gained immense popularity. Honda created a Gil the crab profile on MySpace. It was promoted as a typical social networking visitor. Gil the crab wrote blogs, comments and interacted with other visitors on its profile page. Consequently, more than 100000 people visited Honda’s MySpace page to discuss the Element SC.

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