The importance of social media as part of the marketing mix

Social Media has changed the way people connect, discover, and share information. It is the technology that connects people—whether it’s to share content or just to chat. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are the places where social interactions happen. Social media marketing is the way to use that technology to build relationships, drive repeat business, and attract new customers through friends sharing with friends. Sound familiar? That’s because social media marketing is really just word-of-mouth powered by technology.

Social media is here and it’s here to stay. Consumers of all ages now regularly visit social media sites to review products and services and make informed buying decisions. And it is not just consumers, as business professionals also regularly visit social media sites for such purposes as to research potential vendor partnerships, product research and even as a tool when looking to hire new employees. Regardless of the type of industry you are in, the immense volume of visits to social media sites from consumers with actual commercial intent and the resulting potential for your business cannot be ignored. The latest research shows that 75% of people are somewhat or highly likely to share content they like online with friends, co-workers or family—and 49% do this at least weekly!

When it comes to making their final decision, consumers have moved away from being passive recipients of information from their e-mail, direct mail and print and broadcast advertising to being active and informed purchasers. They do their research to determine what is best for them and they can quickly and independently validate that your company’s products or services are what they are seeking.

As such, there is no doubt that social media is now a vital part of the marketing mix and offers many benefits, the primary one being the ability to open a meaningful and ongoing dialogue with prospects and existing customers. This provides your business with the opportunity to influence their buying decision in real time.

It should be noted that this is not without risks! When you place your business on social media networks there comes with it a certain level of vulnerability. Yes, your business will receive honest feedback from customers, but you must be willing to accept constructive criticism! As such your business’s social media site must be monitored regularly as well as be constantly updated with new content to encourage repeat visits .This not only demonstrates that your business is customer/client oriented, but also validates your desire to be constantly on ‘top of the game’ when it comes to informing your target markets about new products or services. You also demonstrate that you are a business that cares and wants to be open and transparent.

Social media will not replace traditional marketing channels. These channels are still necessary but are no longer sufficient on their own. Social media should be treated as simply another “arrow in the quiver” of the communications arsenal! It will however facilitate a more honest dialogue that will lead to stronger loyalty among your customers and/or prospects, and increased brand awareness.

The bottom line is that social media will enable you to reach your existing customers more frequently and quickly as well as help you open up a new pool of qualified buyers. This all leads to a shortening of the sales cycle, which in turn will lead to greater profitability.