IF MAXIMIZED, social media can help businesses thrive, speakers of a recent social media summit said.
In terms of advertising and marketing, technopreneur Fitz Villafuerte told participants that social media, if used wisely, can help a growing business, boost brand awareness, improve customer relations, boost sales and expand market reach.
He said that in the United States, social media marketing is already accepted as an effective tool for promotions even by traditional businesses.
Due to its impact, “social media has become an effective way to build businesses. For marketers, this is good addition to their existing marketing plan,” Villafuerte said during the Social Media Influencers Summit organized by iNewMedia in cooperation with the Cebu Bloggers Society Inc. (CBSI) held at the JCentre Mall over the weekend.
But while social media is gaining popularity, Villafuerte stressed businesses should not discount the use of other traditional channels. “Tri-media plus social media can work together. Don’t just use one,” he said.
Villafuerte said that in the Philippines, food and travel are the top two sectors that have high engagement in social media, followed by technology.
According to the Socialnomics website by Erik Qualman, social media creates positive return of investments. It cited as an example entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, who grew his family business from $4 million to $50 million using social media. Vaynerchuk is co-founder and CEO of a social media brand consulting agency VaynerMedia.
Socialnomics said Vaynerchuk’s Twitter account alone helped him generate 1,800 new customers, higher from the ones he generated through other channels like direct mail and billboards, which cost him $15,000 and $7,500 respectively.
Wetpaint and Alimeter Group also found out that companies widely engaged in social media surpass their peers in both revenues and profits.
Computer manufacturer Dell, for example, sold $3 million worth of computer products using Twitter. Automotive company Ford allotted 25 percent of the firm’s ad spending on digital and social media. It reported that some 35 percent of consumers were aware of the Ford Fiesta model via the social media before it was launched in the United States.
Socialnomics also said that social media is no longer just the domain of the B-to-C market (business to consumer) as it has now become a necessary communication channel even to the B-to-B market (business to business) to build awareness and engagement and create advocacies.
It cited as an example the five million fans of US president Barack Obama on social media. Some 5.4 million people were reported to have clicked on an “I Voted for Obama” Facebook button. His presence in social media reportedly generated some three million online donors, amounting to $500 million.
The study also revealed that 71 percent of the businesses in the US plan to increase investment in social media by an average of 40 percent because of the low cost of marketing, getting traction and because of its necessity.
The emergence of social media has led to the creation of an “influence economy” where by influences led to purchases.
Digital Strategist Jonha Ducayag Revesencio said acquisitions or purchases now start at asking the crowd first what they think or know of a particular product. She said consumers these days gather data through browsing online first or post questions on various social networking sites before they pull out their credit cards to purchase items.
Aside from being an effective tool in boosting sales, Smart Communications head of Digital Services Leah Besa-Jimenez said social media helps a lot in terms of improving a company’s customer relationship.
While the birth of social media opens gates to a more active customer feedback, Jimenez said companies should be prepared in dealing with social crisis.
“We should get the company ready and listen to what the customer says. This is not about the shift to a new media but this is a shift in how we do business,” Jimenez said.
She said many companies or brands have been placed in a negative light because of their slow reaction to customer feedback, particularly those online. She said that social media should be treated as a tool in terms of knowing the potential customer feedback and needs.
“Groups formed online by companies can also become their instant ‘armies’ who would defend them when they face social crisis,” added Villafuerte.
Social media is more than marketing as it also impact sales, support and product development, Jimenez said. She said companies should invest in systems that will enable them to know how the brand is being discussed by customers.
This social media monitoring will help companies gain customer insight, determine the brand’s conversation share in the market, respond quickly to issues and eventually help them come up with better business decisions.
“Many departments both internally and externally can improve their decision making by leveraging on social media,” she said.
In the next five years, Villafuerte projects usage and engagement of social media, particularly in the Philippines would soar higher as social media moves towards the mobile platform. He said that if brands will continue to heighten their presence online and launch strategies via the mobile platform, they will not be left behind in the competition.
“Brands or companies will miss out a lot of opportunities if they are not in social media,” he said. Villafuerte said small and start-up businesses can make use of the free social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to launch, market their products or create advocacies online.
The summit also included talks on how to leverage social media in pursuing advocacies. Tonyo Cruz called on people to use social media to push for social change.
Organizers said 358 participants comprising bloggers, digital entrepreneurs and members of the academe, youth sector, business sector, non-government organizations and government institutions attended the Social Media Influence Summit last Saturday.
With the positive turnout, CBSI president Ruben Licera Jr. said they will make the summit an annual event.
The summit was anchored on the theme “Trending + Forward”, that aims to highlight how social media provides a venue for companies and individuals to promote their products and how social media influencers reach out to and influence these products’ target audiences. Other activities of CBSI include the World Blogathon and Blog Talk, a campaign on responsible blogging and bloggers given out to college schools and universities here.