How brands can tap into the power of social networking sites

I have to confess that I’ve been so busy in the office of late that I haven’t had the time to write as much as I’d like to recently. Now that I have some time (or I can at least squeeze 20 minutes in to my day for myself), I find that I’m suffering from writers block. I wanted to write today about a project with a non-financial services client that I’ve been working on. This is a rare occurrence for me these days given that I work for Ptarmigan Media, a media planning and buying agency specialising in the financial services vertical. I can usually outline my thoughts quite quickly, but not today….

This project required me looking at the best ways of reaching out to distinct groups of individuals, each with their own set of common characteristics. A key requirement of the project is the ability to deliver relevant and appropriate messages to individuals within these groups. Taking this one step further, its not actually just about delivering a message to each audience segment, (very much push marketing), but engaging with the audience through two way dialogue. By establishing dialogue with your audience, you are quickly able to establish a rapport with them and take yourself from being just another ‘advertiser’ to fellow ‘aficionado’. Of course the one area that you can readily and very easily identify distinct market niches – or at least groups of like minded individuals are on social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and of course Twitter.

It is important however to approach these sites with caution. Brands that merely set out to ‘advertise’ on social networking sites in an attempt to drive sales are likely to find their best efforts bear very little fruit. Rather, look at how you can become an active participant in the community, how you can engage with and have dialogue with other community members.

I’m probably already making brands that are considering approaching social media nervous with this line of reasoning, but at the end of the day it only makes sense that you should be able to engage with your target audience about the products and services that represent your core competency? Perfect examples of well respected brands that are considered ‘experts’ in their field of excellence are companies like Harley Davidson, Apple and Malin + Goetz.

This is an area I touched on in a previous post, the fact that each of these companies are distinct, unique, and have vast fan bases of passionate individuals prepared to pay a premium for the product or service that they offer.

On reflection, would you rather your brand be positioned towards the mass market, (and always run the risk of being undercut on price or simply going out of fashion), or in this increasingly¬† fragmented media world, be attractive to distinct market niches who will be loyal and prepared to pay you a premium for what you do on an ongoing basis….?

The following article by Kristin Foster, Digital Strategist at Ogilvy looks at some of the other issues facing brands considering using social networking sites such as Facebook.

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