Consumers are spending more of their online lives on social networks. For many, these services have become the hub of their online activities, and mobile devices are a major tool for accessing these social networks.
The campaigns we've seen over the past quarter provide examples of how major brands are using social networks to promote their products. Whether you own a hair salon or a restaurant, or work at a local retailer or manufacturer, you can apply these ideas to your business in ways that will benefit your bottom line.What's with social networks?
Social networking allows individuals to interact with one another and build relationships. When businesses join those sites, people can interact with the product or company. Through social networking sites, businesses can have extended interactions with individual followers. This personal interaction can instil a feeling of loyalty into followers and potential customers. Through careful positioning in this space, brands can target very specific audiences (by interest group and demographic).
What's more, social networking platforms make it easy to create 'mobilised' content to attract and interact with consumers, for free. You can publish updates without having to depend on an agency or web developer. Best of all, you'll reach a large market segment that depends on mobile handsets to access the internet.Facebook
Some 300 to 400 million people access Facebook daily. You don't have to be a genius to create a new account or page, and it's exceptionally mobile-friendly. If you access it from a mobile device, the site detects your handset and redirects you to the appropriate version of its mobile presence, m.facebook.com, based on whether you have a touch-enabled phone or not.
Brands as diverse as Absolut, DBS Bank, Ernst & Young and Tata Docomo have a presence here. One brand worth focusing on is AXE, a popular men's range of deodorants and fragrances from Unilever, which wanted to launch a new product line in Indonesia. Prior to this campaign, AXE did not have a mobile presence. But the company realised that mobile had to be a key part of their advertising strategy. More than 40% of mobile users in Indonesia say they rarely, if ever, use a computer to access the internet. And our ad network reaches over 23 million people in Indonesia. Seventy percent are men, which is AXE's target market.
So AXE created a Facebook page and banner ads to promote it. The page offers info on AXE's latest events and promotions. The KPI for the campaign was to drive as many people as possible to 'like' the Facebook mobile fan page. To attract users, AXE offered a lucky draw for a free iPod Touch. In just five days, AXE's banner ads attracted 1.7 million impressions. The Facebook page now has well over 700 000 fans.YouTube
YouTube automatically compresses videos into formats suitable for phones. Placing a TV ad online will give it a longer shelf life and reach a wide audience, with none of the hefty costs of broadcast. You can also consider creating content especially for the web. Take a look, for example at Harley Davidson's YouTube channel. It's produced a series of videos about its bikes and the people who ride them.
You don't need to produce professional videos, either. With flipcams and consumer video cameras, you can easily create and share videos of your merchandise, testimonials and more.Twitter + Facebook + Blogging + YouTube
As you can see from this photo, the Hock Gift Shop is not a very large store. But this 'one stop army shop' is quite popular in Singapore with men performing their National Service and annual military duties. The store adopted an integrated social media strategy to publicise its merchandise. It posts Twitter updates a couple times a week with links back to its website.
The most recent entry on its blog showcases new tools that the shop has to customise T-shirts. Their YouTube channel shows how products are made - from engraving dog tags to using a heat-press to customising t-shirts. There are a few non-product videos posted just for fun as well. And the store's Facebook page provides a forum for customers to interact with the shop and pose questions, and for the store to provide updates on merchandise and pricing. They have a website as well; and of course there's a widget on the home page linked to their Facebook feed.Other social networks
Your choice of which social network to use will likely vary by market. In Thailand, HI5 is popular. MySpace is pretty US and Canadian centric. MXit is big in South Africa. Be sure to do your homework before you start, and don't assume that your audience is restricted to the usual three, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.The power of mobile
Many mobile phones have social networking apps, which send push messages to users. Individuals are notified of any happenings on social networking sites through their cell phones, in real-time. This constant connection to social networking sites means products and companies constantly remind and update followers about their capabilities, uses and relevance.
In Russia, 19% of internet surfers rarely, if ever, use a PC to go online. In Egypt, that number is 70%. Even for those who have multiple internet access points (mobile, plus a computer at home, work, school or university), mobile provides a personalised, focused and immediate interaction. A consumer's phone is 'all about me' in a way that a desktop computer at work never can be.
So the bottom line is this: social networking provides an affordable means for your brand to form a presence on the mobile internet so that you can market your business and interact with consumers. As always, though, you can't assume that 'if you build it, they will come'. You'll need to promote what you do.