Why Companies are Shifting from Old School Marketing to Social Media

By Amy McIIwain, President, Financial Social Media on Friday, November 4th, 2011

I remember being a teenager, hopping on my bike, and setting off on the mile long journey to work.  As I climbed the last hill a huge billboard would slowly emerge over the horizon. I stared at it intensely everyday, distracting myself from the pain burning in my legs.  I always thought, why do they change it when they do?  Who decides what to put on it?  Why would they put that up there?  We spend most of our lives being marketed to.  Everywhere we go, we see ads for everything from cars to canned food.  As technology changes, we move into a time where there is a computer in every home and 80% of Americans are using social media networking sites daily.  How is this different from the days on my huffy?

The old market model is not gone, but with a change in the way we find our customers, it is definitely being pushed down the list.  Marketing has always had a one-way message, or a call to action.  You sit in front of a television and the ad in front of you says: Buy Me!  You can either decide whether to buy or not.  With today’s media out there, if you’re interested in a product or service you can go online and do research about it yourself.  This research is in-depth.  It’s no longer asking your neighbor if by chance he’s heard of this new widget.  You go online and you can find out everything:  reviews, websites that sell it and tell you all about it, and social media platforms that are integrating advertising and sales.

Social media for sellers is a way to soft sell a product or service.  It’s not pushy and requires two-way communication between the company and its consumers.  Here a customer can have a dialog about a product with multiple people.  These people could be the company itself, writers, or others that might know something about the product or service you’re inquisitive about.Consumers have better exposure through the internet and social media networks.  Think about all those companies out there on Facebook just waiting to talk to you and tell you about their company.  You want to buy a product but your not sure which product is best.  You go online, research and find others that have the same questions.  Maybe you post a question to your Facebook or Twitter friends asking for any experience they’ve had with the product/service you are interested in. This movement into a new form of social media marketing is going to add clout to a business.  Social media for companies is designed to build a relationship with customers.   You don’t want to go on Twitter and have somebody trying to sell you something.  But you do want the company there so you can ask questions.  This is a two-way hand shake.

Consumers control the message.  Before it was one-way communication in selling to the consumer.  Social media has leveled the playing field.  Consumers have the power to control dialog between the companies they like.  The power of social media has not been fully seen yet, it is a growing entity that will expand and contract with different trends.  Social media is here to stay, it was started by consumers and now businesses are using this to help consumers better understand their product or service.  How far will it go?  We will have to wait to see.  But as we move farther into the age of technology, it becomes easier for consumers to find information online.  As long as companies are willing to make change and grasp onto social media and use it correctly, the limits are endless.

Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (@InsuranceMKTG).   

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