Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to Twitter your way to marketing success

Social media sites such as Twitter offer an easy way to effectively engage with customers and politely advertise your brand without turning anyone off.
By: Michelle MacLeod

As e-mail filters get more intelligent and computer users routinely ignore the flashy banner ads plastered across the bottom of their Web page – companies need to find new ways to attract consumers online.

To this end, a growing number of firms are regularly harnessing social networking Web sites such as Facebook or MySpace, and tools such as blogs or Twitter as part of their overall marketing strategy.

For instance, at PR Web, a company that distributes press releases online, Facebook has been a useful tool for tapping into a well-educated and well-connected niche market.

Jiyan Wei, product manager at PRWeb, has become the company's social media evangelist, creating a Facebook group and interacting with potential clients who join the group or post questions.

"It's very casual, I'll just post a message every once in a while to say: hey we're going to be at this location with our booth – come check us out," he said.

The challenge before marketers, said Wei, is how to appropriately and diplomatically engage users in conversations, without ticking them off.

For instance, members of the PRWeb Facebook group joined of their own accord and do not want to be spammed to their Inbox.

According to Wei, the key to marketing success on Facebook is to keep it casual and not send unsolicited messages. Facebook is all about individual interactions, not official corporate messages, he said.

However, the PRWeb executive admits this is just a small part of his firm's overall marketing strategy. The company continues to use other tools and channels for 90 per cent of its initiatives, including direct marketing and e-mail campaigns.

While use of social networking in marketing initiatives is certainly gaining ground, there's still much resistance to these tools even among senior corporate executives.

Fifty-five per cent of chief marketing officers at leading brands surveyed by Dallas-based marketing firm, Epsilon Data Management LLC, said they aren't interested in incorporating social networking sites into their marketing strategies.

Only 10 per cent said they already use Facebook or MySpace as part of their overall strategy. Epsilon reports companies prefer to use other types of social media, such as Internet forums, e-mail or blogs – rather than Facebook or MySpace.

One social forum gaining in popularity is Twitter, an online tool similar to a blog, but that only allows updates of 140 characters or less. 

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