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article imageOp-Ed: A Target Audience — Social Media and Marketing

By Donald Quinn     Oct 11, 2012 in Technology
As Facebook starts testing the new "want" button, Social Media Marketing warrants a closer look. How much information is too much, and should we draw a line at certain types of micro-target strategies that use private information?
Social Media! It has become a phenomenon that has changed the very dynamics of the world, in areas we never thought possible. All of a sudden it is possible to share your life with people from far away, from long ago, and without having to ever see them in person. A click of a button tells them where we eat, what we like to do, shares pictures of our children, and open our world to our friends. Similarly we know what our families are doing, what color Aunt May’s birthday cake was, and where our high school crush ended up. The evolution of social dynamics started the day the first social media outlet was born, became extraordinary with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, and has continued to revolutionize the world ever since.
Let’s face it we are a captive audience, addicted to our smart phones and computers. We update our status, discuss all things small and big, post and re-post, and almost mindlessly check our feeds. In a sense we have created the perfect environment for us to be the focus of marketing or advertising in a very specific and targeted way. And without a doubt many companies have started to take advantage of this plethora of information we offer, and have stepped into our digital world with offerings that peak our interest because the offerings themselves are designed based on our own preset and preapproved choices.
Social oriented marketing is perhaps one of the oldest and most efficient forms of marketing in the world. While today’s generation makes the leap, automatically, to thinking about a digital interface not so long ago social interaction was far more personable. Social interactions involved movie theaters, restaurants, plays, theme parks, and walks. As a result marketing professionals adapted and marketing was directed at these forms of entertainment and social interaction. The result was the billboard highways, sandwich boards, and planes circling about beaches pulling signs. The objective, then as now, was to find people doing the things they wanted to be doing and then share products with them that could enhance their lives. Social media marketing, using today’s digitally connected world, does exactly the same thing - only better.
The marketing experts of today have far more information to work with than the fact that we like a particular beach. Instead we provide them with a plethora of information that helps craft a very special and specific marketing plan designed to capture our attention. Every piece of information that a marketer would ever want form our birth date, our likes and dislikes, our children, where we like to vacation, movies, you name it and we place it for the entire world to see on social media.
How do companies capitalize on this wave of information sharing?
Social media allows companies and products to interact with people directly, in much the same way that we would interact with our friends. We like certain products or brands on Facebook, for example, which then allows that brand or product to post updates, information, and promotions to our wall. This in turn does two things. First it reminds us of the product and introduces us to these promotions or specials. Since we already like the brand, company, or product we are more likely than not to get interested and potentially click on the link. Secondly our friends, who often share the same likes and dislikes as us, are also exposed to the company, product, promotion, etc. The personal interaction builds up a sense of personal attention and encourages brand loyalty among consumers. So much so that the Harvard Business review found that having a Facebook fan page can increase customer loyalty by up to 36%.
Using social media also helps a marketing message to be amplified. When a group of people, like you and me, use twitter to re-post or promote a company we become stakeholders who by definition spread the information by word of mouth. Social media is literally a club and within this club we are the poster children.
Today’s marketer has a plethora of tools available to begin to understand what your needs are, what your likes are, in essence who you are. Symantec analysis technology advancements now allow markets to find what are known as “buying cues” from content shared on our Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or other accounts. Buying cues then allow the marketing company to build a targeted approach, or what is known as a micro-targeted campaign, which have proven to be extremely effective and by far eclipse the mass blast campaigns of the past.
Jayson DeMer, the founder of Audiencebloom, wrote on their blog recently “Participating in social media channels brings your brand closer to your customers and potential customers. Your social media “voice” defines your brand image and separates it from a distant entity to a hip, trendy, in-the-know brand. Think about what Apple did with its famous “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC” commercials.”
While there is certainly no doubt that these methods have helped marketing companies promote brands and products in a more synergized manner, the question is have we as consumers benefited? Like with any question regarding the exchange of privacy it is a complicated answer.
Because companies like Audiencebloom can help their clients specifically target customers based on their (the consumers) needs, the rest of us are spared the carpet bombing methods of the past. We no longer have to tune out ads about things we have little interest in and certainly would never use, replaced by things that make us happy. On the other hand every detail of our life becomes a potential tool for a slick company to use as a target so that we can become the focus of their micromarketing strategy. In essence we give up being harassed in exchange for losing an element of our private life.
The way I see it, and maybe this is just me, we already give up some of those privacies when we expose our lives on social media. While password protections and limiting our friends may seem like a great way to protect ourselves, we open the door to a whole range of exposure of which marketing companies, again in my opinion, are the smallest problem. Social media needs to be treated for what it is, a social club where were gather and talk to share our lives but never our intimate details. At the end of the day if our chatter is picked up and used to make us a little bit more inclined to buy something that should be the last thing on our mind.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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