Take it from us, 2012 is going to be the year of social media marketing.
Things have been building to this point for the last few years. The impact and importance of social media has been growing steadily, and things are about to hit a tipping point. (If they haven't already, that is!) Today's consumers are heady with the power that the Internet gives them in the market. They research products online, compare prices on their smartphones, and blog about their favorite shops and restaurants. More than anything, they trust their network of friends more than any advertisement. That's why social media marketing is so vital in the coming year.
Fundamentally, customers these days don't really trust advertisements. Sure, the old “pound a slogan into their head until they can't forget it” strategy still works from a psychological perspective, but people know that trick, and they resent it. With an Internet full of competition, you don't want resentful customers who feel like they've been pushed into using you. They'll bail out as soon as they think they've found something better. You need customers to honestly like you.
Since what they trust are their social networks, that's what you need to target with your marketing. Instead of advertisements, you need recommendations. This is the crux of social media marketing. People trust the comments other people make about businesses. And remember: with more and more customers going mobile, those comments can come at any time, perhaps only a minute or two after their experience with you. More than ever before, you need to give customers the best service possible, and be responsive to their needs.
Some keys to great social media marketing:
Keep up with comments in the social media. When possible, respond to complaints and show that you're honestly interested in improving your service.
Submit articles about your industry to aggregators like Digg and Reddit, then hang around and participate in the discussion to show your expertise.
You might even consider hiring a social media marketing services company to help you reach out to those customers. After all, it takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with everything being said about you online. A good interactive internet marketing consultant can track comments made about you in real time and respond to them. It's like having an always on-call PR department.
Now that Internet-empowered consumers have the power to truly participate in the sales process, they're not going to let that power go. You need to be flexible, adapting to this changing market and embracing the social media revolution.