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Continuing our series looking at what the evolved business will look like we turn our attention to social media. It is the hot topic of the last few years or so, ever since Facebook begun monetising its site. There is often a lot of hype surrounding the subject, usually as blogs written by those wanting to sell you their ‘expertise’.

Admittedly, we do offer social media, but we always suggest it is used as part of a wider marketing strategy. We like research here at Thread, it’s how we get to understand you as a business and your marketing needs. So, is there any research that will lend any credence to the new wave of social media fanatics?

There is a plethora of research reports available online which generally agree that, overall, social media does help drive sales. In particular, last year the McKinsey group published a ground-breaking reportdesigned to uncover the benefits businesses found from using social media and Web 2.0 as a whole, and to define any correlation between the surveyed benefits and measurable positive outcomes.

The report found that, in the majority of cases, the closer companies found themselves to the benchmark of a fully-networked business the better they performed in areas of internal communication, customer interaction and external partner/supplier networking.

There was quite a marked difference between those companies barely using social media, those companies involved but not fully networked and those that were fully networked. Fully networked, in this context, describes a business that uses social media for internal collaboration, external communication and marketing and for partner/investor communications. Further, the breakdown in communication barriers both within and between companies and customers was noted as a key benefit to businesses.

So what, if any, part does social media have to play in the marketing world of tomorrow?

Internal Communication

By using technologies such as wikis and blogs, companies dramatically improve the access to information from internal experts, which also reduces communication costs. These collaborative environments also tap into what has been labelled employee’s ‘cognitive surplus’. This is the gap between what your employees are tasked with doing and what they are capable of doing. This is a highly constructive way of developing a business and leads to increased employee satisfaction.

Many of the companies surveyed by McKinsey also reported an increase in collaboration across organisational silos and also involving individuals from outside the company. This led to an overall increase in productivity and successful innovation and a decrease in the time to market for new products and services.

Customer Interaction

Social networking sites, in particular, have become a valuable new resource for customer interaction. Indeed, with customers now searching Facebook for companies before general web searches, social networking sites may now be the first place a customer comes to find information contributing to their decision to buy.

Most companies surveyed by McKinsey (60%, n=1,708) found that Web 2.0 technologies significantly contributed to the effectiveness of marketing. This was measured on increases in awareness, consideration, conversion and loyalty. There was also a marked reduction in the marketing costs of almost half the surveyed companies.

Customer satisfaction is another key consideration – 50% of companies finding significant improvements. Interacting with customers via Twitter and Facebook, in particular, encourages customer collaboration, leading to better innovation; wider marketing arena, reducing time to market; and more consistent and personal contact, increasing brand awareness and loyalty. Also, due to the low-cost involved in the implementation of these technologies, support costs were seen to have significantly reduced in 35% of businesses.

Overall, then, positive feedback from the majority of companies using social media and other web 2.0 technologies – and it’s still early days. As companies begin to define their social strategy with more clarity, and as the web is ever further condensed into the easily managed social sites, we will see the positive effects of social media increase year on year. However, as with many marketing activities, it is whoever has been established the longest that is most trusted. So looking long-term it is worth getting social media marketing integrated with an overarching marketing strategy sooner rather than later.

To find-out how your company in particular could benefit from social media marketing contact us today and we can supply you with further information or even some tailored marketing ideas.

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