Due to what has been called a hunger for connectivity, over half of the population of the United States is on Facebook: 152.9 million as of February 2012. Many older Americans tell their friends that they joined Facebook so that they can see what their adult children are up to. Since their children and grandchildren seldom call them, they join Facebook to stay in touch.
For the younger generations, the immediacy of connectivity offered by Facebook and Twitter has become essential. Social networking, a term coined by Mark Zuckerberg when he founded Facebook, was initially predicted to be just another passing phase but has become a staple in the seemingly bottomless need for instant information of this twenty-first century. Launched in 2004, active users of Facebook grew from an initial million to over 750 million in 2011.
Coupling these data with the fact that one out of three purchases are bought on- line, it should be clear that current marketing strategies should change in order to conform. But how?
Largely in the experimental stages of new methods of advertising, a few large companies like Starbucks, Walmart and the Palms, an upscale casino in Las Vegas, have made what they consider decent in- roads into the new culture of social network users. Taking advantage of those users who are “influencers” in their network, the companies have solicited these individuals to post their product and to “like” them in exchange for coupons which can be redeemed for cash or for product. These influencers are deemed as such by their followers due to the power of their personality, opinions and or expertise.
Those of us with a product we know is excellent can easily experiment with some of these same methods. For example, we can locate loyal customers who use Twitter and then offer them discounts for each ten tweets about our product to their followers. Similar methods can be offered to those who like us on Facebook; really these are just variations on the testimonials network marketers have used for years.
The emergence of social media has not changed the fundamental axiom of marketing: “WIIFM” or what’s in it for me? If anything, the principle is magnified through 153 million social media active users with friends numbering between one and three hundred. If they like us and our products, be assured that they will talk about it.
The tried and true essentials of marketing remain: a trusted, consistently high quality product with excellent customer service. These are even more essential now than in prior years due to the number of sites to receive purchasing advice. Where only five years ago, Consumer Reports was the sole source of receiving honest feedback on a fairly limited range of products, contemporary curious potential buyers can now check out customer satisfaction with almost any product at on-line at sites like Google, Yelp, and Trusted Opinion.