Social Media Marketing: A Look Back, a Look Ahead, Part 2
This week, in the final part of this two-part series, I examine some social media marketing trends that are poised for takeoff in 2009.
(To view part 1, where I examined some of the key social media trends of 2008, click here.)
As we wrap up a trying year, it comes as no surprise that marketers are looking cautiously at 2009. With the tough economy, many consumers are retreating. But as consumers pull back, marketers must resist doing the same.
Here are four ways consumers are changing their behaviors online and how online marketers can capitalize on these trends:
Focus on the home. Facing financial uncertainty, consumers are shifting their focus to the hearth and home. With this comes increased time spent online. They're turning to the Internet for recipes, do-it-yourself tips and family-oriented activities that require little money and encourage time spent together at home.
The Internet for independence. Consumers also are looking to the Internet for independence. Before, activities like going to the doctor for minor ailments were commonplace. Now, consumers increasingly solve problems on their own to save time, money and gas. Using the Internet for independence is taking on many forms, and there are many new opportunities for marketers to provide consumers with helpful and useful online tools.
Less is more. At the same time, many Americans have realized that less is more, and even though they have less money, they still can have great lives. Americans are downsizing their homes and giving up luxuries in an effort to get back to the basics, refusing to waste time or energy hungering for things that are now unattainable. Again, this is leading to online fact-finding missions for information on sewing, knitting, home improvement for less and home décor. The marketers who find innovative ways to provide utility will reap the rewards.
Focus on consumers, social media. While consumers are cutting back, it's more important than ever for marketers to look for ways to get to know their customers more intimately and on an individual basis. Identify your customers' value sets and adapt your communications to match those value sets, which is a very different approach from how many e-commerce-driven firms operate today.
If companies want to remain relevant, they must follow their customers' leads and get out ahead of new trends. This is the worst possible time to abandon your customers just because they aren't necessarily making purchases. In tough economic times, a company's No. 1 goal is to maintain communication and keep its brand promise in front of the customer.
As a result, communities and social media are exactly what companies should focus on in 2009 — despite the fact that many marketers are making their first cuts here, citing a lack of hard ROI.
I argue that becoming part of the conversation delivers even greater ROI in the long term. Those firms that enter the conversation, encourage the consumer voice and move into the fray will emerge from these hard times with more authentic brands. Consumers will thank these brands for staying with them in a time when so many other brands abandoned them.