Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Power of Social Media and the Importance of Market Segmentation

Social media is a great way to reach a growing audience, particularly if you factor the ways in which this market is segmented. Social media is part of the vast and growing arena of interactive digital marketing. The social media audience is large and loyal and with hundreds of millions of visitors and countless billions of videos being viewed online, it has even more massive appeal than traditional mediums like television.

Traditional marketing approaches are increasingly being complimented by novel online experiences. Although search engine optimization remains important, social media optimization is emerging as an important way to engage a huge audience that is seeking a more dynamic Internet experience.

Jim Carroll, a well-known speaker, author and columnist said in a recent article,"ecological spending will continue to drive growth markets." In the same article he cites some numbers that illustrate why social media is changing the marketing landscape, "147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones...that number could very well be 1 billion within five years!"

For more informaton on mobile marketing see The Green Market's 7 part series, "Making Mobile Marketing Work for Your Business," which includes Researching Your Target, Design Tips, Presentation Tips, Understanding the Differences Between Mobile and Online Marketing, Interactive Digital Marketing For the Young and the Not So Young, Summary of Key Points (For The Green Market's extensive series of mobile marketing posts see related posts at the bottom of this page).

As explained in an article entitled The Ever Expanding World Of Small Business and Social Media Optimization, "the web is being rapidly transformed from simply being an informational monologue into an exciting interactive and socially enriching platform, social networking sites are gaining greater power and prominence in the online media community. So it is because of this major shift that small business owners are being forced, in their media planning, to start including these websites as part of their plan for posting compelling online advertisements, writing articles for this media while also using audio and video to capture their target market share. Social media is becoming an extremely powerful tool for creating marketing leverage through persuasive communication - whereby customers can share their insights, their perspectives, and their opinions. Customers want to engage, and this media is providing them the perfect platform for that end. [And] small business clients are [also] demanding to be heard in an ever-increasing manner."

Social media is increasingly important for the small business community. Although social media may be a relatively new marketing channel, it is an integral part of the future of communications. In a recent AdAge article, Chris Perry, exec VP-digital strategy and operations at Weber Shandwick said, "within all companies every function will become more digitized, socialized and, dare I say, integrated. Social and digital communications practices are being applied to every traditional function across the enterprise."

As explained in an article entitled Reaching Generation Y Through Social Media Marketing, "We now live amongst a diverse arrangement of new and different generations where change is happening by the second. And in order to be on the cutting edge of all things marketing, small business owners will need to be more and more aware of the changing demographics and learn how to best communicate with the ever growing field of different buyers who are joining the market place every single hour."

Understanding the social media audience is key to successfully using this rapidly growing marketing channel. Millennials, or Generation Y, are a high value audience for business, this group of young online spenders was born between 1980 and 1996. This segment understands the environmental consequences of their actions and they have the social awareness to act. Even if Millennials are not part of your company's core demographic, by driving traffic and enhancing your social media profile they play a pivotal role in social media optimization.

Millennials are also know as the Internet generation and as explained in a CSR Wire article, this group does not know a world without the Internet. "The Next Generation defined by those born between 1997 and 2015, won’t know a world where social media and sustainability aren’t part of everyday life." The implication is that social media (and sustainability) will continue to grow as successive generations engage user generated content as a organic extension of their social networks.

Millennials want change and marketers are addressing their concerns. With 42 percent of marketers reporting that they are keen to experiment with social computing, the change agenda of Millennials is already impacting marketing communications. Going forward, Millennials will drive economic growth and reshape the fundamentals of every industry in the process.

A recent AdAge study, reaffirmed the fact that Millenials are the single most environmentally aware generation. The study revealed that:

- 69% of Millenials surveyed expressed genuine interest in the environment
- 79% of Millennials glean most of their information from the web
- 76% of Millennials emphasized the importance of brands being ecologically conscious
- 64% of Millennials in the 18 to 29 age group said they would be willing to pay more for a product that supports an environmental cause.

Although the older segment of Millennials were more likely to choose Green and even pay more for a Green product or service, this did not hold true for the 13-17 age group. The study suggests that teenagers are sensitive about the price point.

Teens today are much more tech savvy, confident and culturally diverse, they want to be listened to and have their needs and expectations addressed. Millennials are more tuned into media than previous generations and although they are aware of the importance of the environment, they are not sure how to get involved.

Forward looking companies can support Millenials as they transition from knowing why the environment is important to actual sustainable living. Social media is an ideal medium to help get this group involved in environmental efforts that will deepen eco-awareness and foster consumer loyalty.

This is part of the reason why Web Pro News refers to social media as, "the holy grail for advertisers on the Internet: a mass-concentrated U.S. audience reach similar to television." But to make the most of social media you need to incorporate Millenial attitudes into your marketing strategy.

According to the AdAge study cited above, Green adds credibility to a company's brand, but the evidence also indicates that Green marketing strategies should not be universal across all age groups. Different Green marketing efforts need to be adapted for the different segments. Further, companies seeking to market to teenagers should be sure to offer competitive pricing.

Teens apparent reticence towards Green may be due to their need for immediate gratification. To reach teens, marketers need to be innovative in the ways they link Green interests with more immediate observable results. By encouraging Millennials to take action on the environment, social media can play a vital role helping this generation to lead us toward a healthier planet.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool that is easily accessed by small business, but as Chris Perry explains, there are still many unknowns associated with social media advertising, particularly in the current economic climate. "No one owns [social media]. No one company, no one specialty, no one individual has all the answers to address the fundamental changes taking place. The changes are too sweeping, too fast moving, too complex for anyone to talk in absolutes. We're still in the early stages of a media disruption that impacts marketing communications in ways [that are] yet be fully understood."

For those pioneers willing to brave the unknown, social media provides an opportunity for businesses to communicate with their consumers in a fresh and dynamic fashion. With hundred of millions of loyal participants, social media has the unparalleled ability to quickly reach a huge audience. However, you cannot unlock the power of social media without understanding Millennials.

Next: Small Business Guide to Social Media / Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media / Twitter / Social Media and ROI

Related Articles

Social Media and Sustainability
Digital Marketing for the Young and Not so Young
Digital Marketing Will Thrive in a Downturn
Digital Marketing: Making the Most of Your Marketing in a Downturn
The Growth of Digital Marketing
How to Make Mobile Work: Summary of Key Points
The Growth of Mobile

Mobile is Green
Mobile Marketing: A Green Opportunity
Energy Conservation Via Mobile Marketing
Apple's iPhone: Green Applications and Incentives to Innovate
Back to School Mobile Marketing Campaigns

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