Social media marketing: Business has a new BFF

Photo courtesy of BusinessWeek

BY HOLLIS TEMPLETON – MEDILL NEWS SERVICE

While everyone—and I mean everyone—is wired to social networking sites, marketers are tapping into mainstream use of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

It’s called social media marketing and it allows companies to manage brand reputations, get closer to their customers and measure and track performance—at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

“Essentially what you’re trying to do is build a community around your brand, “ explained Andrew Sauter, CEO of FlashPoint Social Media, a Chicago-based firm that helps companies integrate social media technologies into their business strategies.

Previously executive VP of social media at CareerBuilder.com and founder of BrightFuse.com, Sauter now works with businesses like Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Lodging Interactive, and Lincolnshire-based Sanco Industries, Inc.

To paint a picture of the industry, Sauter pointed to these widely-known social network marketing success stories:

•    Blender manufacturer Blendtec produced a series of YouTube videos called Will It Blend? to demonstrate that its Total Blender was so powerful it could grind up an iPhone or a pair of skies. According to Sauter, sales increased by around 1000 percent.
•    Orbitz’ Where I’ve Been application for Facebook
•    Adidas and MySpace teaming up on World Cup marketing

Sauter said customized applications are most profitable and that FlashPoint hopes to expand customized development for iPhone and Facebook applications this year.

In the next one to two years, we can expect to see nearly every company in America embracing social media and the industry beginning to consolidate, said Sauter, who predicts that MySpace may be bought out and that more companies will take advantage of mobile web technology.

With over 175 million active users on Facebook (50 percent of whom log in daily), even networking sites themselves are learning they can generate revenue. Erik Qualman of Search Engine Watch suggests various ways in which Facebook could become profitable, including enhancing Facebook gifts to include real presents—iTunes downloads, for example—versus $1 icons. Qualman has similar advice for Twitter. He’s even constructed a Social Media Madness bracket to predict who will become the next “kind of social media.”

According to Phil Tadros of Chicago-based marketing firm Doejo, Facebook may just be waiting until the time is right to push its annual revenue above $300 million.

“Facebook can monetize in so many ways it’s sickening,” Tadros said. “They are not doing so because they are building more value in the billions by not sticking their necks out to get chopped by the nickels and dimes.”

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