These days, social media are sort of like websites: Just about every company seems to be engaging customers and prospects online. The vast majority are posting on Facebook (a substantial amount for business purposes), tweeting on Twitter, networking on LinkedIn, sharing photos on Pinterest (see...
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These days, social media are sort of like websites: Just about every company seems to be engaging customers and prospects online. The vast majority are posting on Facebook (a substantial amount for business purposes), tweeting on Twitter, networking on LinkedIn, sharing photos on Pinterest (see sidebar), and/or showing corporate videos on the Google’s YouTube channel. With the new Google+ product, the online search giant is striving to make its offering more relevant for users and businesses by combining local information with social networking.
While the jury is still out on Facebook, it and Twitter are making money from social media. But what about the rest of us? My cousin in Wisconsin is a fairly successful “Mommy Blogger” who has advertisers. Can print firms turn a profit from social, too?
Usage numbers don’t lie. Nearly 80 percent of US adults who are online use social networks, reported Netpop Research. That amounts to approximately 146.5 million people. Eight percent use Twitter daily, revealed a recent Pew Research study. Nearly one of every five minutes online is spent on social networks, according to statistics compiled by comScore. One in seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook.
On the business side, a study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller found that 84 percent of Fortune 100 companies are actively engaged in at least one social media platform. The “2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report,” measuring the responses of 3,300 marketing professionals at primarily small- to medium-sized businesses, noted that 93 percent use social media for marketing purposes.
Some eight in 10 companies will participate in social-media marketing this year, nearly double the number of just three years ago, according to EMarketer estimates. All of them are feverishly working to get customers and prospects to “engage”—to “like,” to tweet, to comment, to share. And they’re spending a lot of money to do so: Companies spent about $2.1 billion on social-media advertising in 2010; that number is projected to grow to nearly $8 billion in 2015, said media consulting firm BIA/Kelsey.
Facebook turned eight this year and went public. Its popularity—800 million global users now, up from 500 million two years ago and one million in 2004—and trove of personal data have attracted many companies to the site to create so-called fan pages where they can promote a product for free. The pages, relaunched in 2009, also enable the firms to send offers, coupons, and event reminders to users who have become fans. But taking 10 minutes to set up a fan page doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s being used properly. Content needs to be properly edited and keyword optimized with meta data for H1 coding.
But online media have challenges. Their paltry response rates pale even by direct mail print standards: only one in 1,000 Web readers clicks on the average display ad, also known as banner ads and “cube” spots, according to Webtrends. In Facebook’s case, the figure is even worse, closer to one in 2,000. Some 83 percent of US adult FB users hardly ever or never click on online ads or sponsored content, found a May 2012 poll by the Associated Press and CNBC.
Not sold on the medium, General Motors pulled its FB ads this past spring. And as Internet screens shrink, many fear ad revenue will as well. More than half of Facebook users get to the site through smartphones and tablets.
Many print firm owners still are not convinced, either; some are downright skeptical, stubbornly contending that social media is an integrated waste of time or even a marketing black hole. That may explain why only about four in 10 printers are actively engaged in social media networking for business, according to the latest PIA research available. “Show us the money,” shout the doubting 60 percent. By looking for hard financial numbers, are they missing the boat to increased revenue streams? There are softer intangibles that have an indirect effect on the bottom line, pointed out Kara Wachter, senior VP at PR firm Waggener Edstrom, factors “such as awareness, brand loyalty, reputation and perception, belief, advocacy,” she said. The key, most agree, is to integrate marketing, advertising, sales, and public-relations efforts.