This journal takes the perspective Of direct marketing by asking why and how a message sent by a company may be more effective if it is targeted at individuals through social network media. The author introduces this perspective by stating that there is a dilemma faced by companies planning to interact with social networks. On one hand, companies may seek to control the communication with customers in the network to make sure that their brand message comes through clearly. Social outworks can also attract companies by the availability of demographic and lifestyle information available.
However, on the other hand, a social network implies members feeling a sense of ownership of the community. Therefore, individuals may be resentful of brands overstepping into what is perceived to be their own community space. The journal proposes a model to guide direct marketing in the assessment of online social networks. The model is based on three elements of the social network environment: the seller, the customer and the community. Sellers need to interact with selected communities to achieve a variety of benefits; including spreading positive word of mouth and gathering information about buyers’ need s and preferences.
The challenge for direct marketing is how to achieve a position at the center between the seller, buyer and community. It can be difficult to reconcile the concept of community with a company’s desire to manipulate communication to its advantage. Producer-led communities One way for a brand to be part of a social network community can be by creating a ‘brand community”. It is formed when individuals become unconnected because of common interests towards the brand. A brand community allows the company to share information, perpetuating the history and culture Of the brand or providing assistance to members.
The company can then improve its brand loyalty by showing that seller and buyer are part of the same community. In a study by Maloney, 62% of young adults have visited a brand or fan page on a social network, and 48 per cent actually joined such a network. Another way for a brand to use social media in marketing is to place ads on leading social networks such as Backbone. However, the same study also noted that although the majority of young consumers (84 per cent) noticed ads on social networks, only 19 per cent found them relevant and 36 per cent never clicked on any ads.
Therefore, social networks ads might not seem profitable for a brand. For a marketer, supporting a brand community involves a fine balance between using pressure to guide the community in the direction that would be in the brand’s interest, and leave some degree of control of the brand to the community. Successful online brand communities need to include a variety of interests hat have a direct, non-invasive connection with the brand in order to generate a sense of belonging to a group with shared interests.
The author gives the example of “Musculoskeletal” which gives the user the opportunity to share, vote, discuss and see Struck ideas. A company’s involvement in social network sites can also result in a wider range of strategic benefits. The feedbacks, conversations Of the users can be used to learn about customers’ need and inform them about new products or promotions. Using social networks to facilitate purchase decision-making Social network ties have a practical function in facilitating product choice.
Buyers’ peer group often influences his purchase decisions and buyer behavior. Customers prefer to be guided by information from friends and other personal contacts rather than company’s formal promotion mix. An important communication objective for firms is therefore to leverage ‘free” positive promotion through word-of-mouth recommendation. Instead of a dyadic relationship between the company and its customers, direct marketing increasingly has to become involved in a triadic relationship between the company, the customer and the immunity to which the customer belongs.
As well as telling their friends, messages left with social network sites can spread a message very rapidly. Many companies have embraced the Internet to develop “viral” marketing. By influencing customer behavior with traditional marketing is becoming less effective, with the proliferation of social media and falling readership levels of conventional media. However, social network sites can pose a threat as well as an opportunity to companies as they can rapidly spread the views of dissatisfied, angry customers. Personal opinion – Conclusion
People do not join social networks to be confronted with marketing messages; instead they join to be social with friends and family. Therefore, marketers must understand that social media works very differently from traditional direct marketing channels. There cannot be aggressive sales and marketers have to be careful with their tone. They have to make users feel like they are part of the same community. Social media is all about community participation. A direct marketer must be prepared to listen to what users want and answer their questions or provide them with suggestions.
Online social media is an important element of marketing strategy today. In fact, the term “direct marketing” may become a misnomer, as companies increasingly have to integrate direct communication that is aimed at target customers, with indirect communication aimed at their social network. The Internet offers unique opportunities for companies to engage with their markets and to learn about customers’ needs. However, direct marketers face dilemmas in trying to reconcile their desire to dominate and control an online community, with the community’s desire to stay as a member-driven environment.