Tech Talk
New Straits Times

Social Media for Marketing

The increasing usage of social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook has created a new platform for companies to market and promote their products. Izwan Ismail talks to Web Guru Asia's director Jeff Zweig on how companies can take advantage of this new form of marketing, better known as social media.

It all started as a platform for people to share their opinions, photos and videos, but social media sites are fast becoming a means for companies to promote their brands and products.

According to Web Guru Asia's director Jeff Zweig, social media sites, also known as Web 2.0, are gaining popularity as a marketing tool due to their unique characteristic in user-generated content.

Unlike traditional marketing tools such as TV, radio and print, which are more direct, social media is otherwise, as most online communities do not welcome traditional direct-sell techniques, he said.

"People use these sites to communicate with each other and share opinions. They post what's interesting to them and communicate as far as brands, companies and issues that they are passionate about."

As these blogs and sites are usually linked to other sites, they can become a powerful tool to disseminate information that can influence people.

What makes social media an even more effective marketing means is that its user-generated content is normally honest, transparent views from people who use certain products and services.

"If people like or believe what you say about a certain product, they may want to link your blog to other blogs. It's a kind of viral marketing," Zweig said.

"If you go to any search engine and search for any major brand name, you'll see blog entries coming up in the first page of the results."

PROSPECTS. Today, it's not just the established media outlets that people look at for marketing purposes, but also blogs and other social media sites. The number of people who view blogs is also said to increase from time to time.

"When it comes to social media usage, Malaysia is among the top five countries in the Asia-Pacific to have the highest number of bloggers. We are just behind Singapore, Korea and Taiwan," Zweig pointed out, adding that the potential is there for brands and companies to adopt this new kind of marketing technique.

Locally, the idea of using social media as a marketing tool is still new, but a few companies have started to embark on this option. For example, Media Prima has started to use social media to promote its products and services through the initiative Gua.com.my.

Social media is not expensive to use because most of these sites are free. So, this creates a level playing field for all types of companies, from small enterprises up to big corporations.

"What's good about this method is that it can be tracked and measured online. So, we know whose blogging about the brand," Zweig said.

Nokia has demonstrated how it used social media marketing to its advantage when the company once pushed its new product through video.

"They identified some bloggers whom they felt would be good ambassadors and gave a new phone to them for testing. As a result, these bloggers gave their honest opinions in a non-advertisement-like atmosphere. This is one way how brands and companies can actually engage people," Zweig highlighted.

OTHER MEANS. Besides using blogs or social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook, companies can use Wikipedia to post as much information about themselves and their products.

"It's open to the public where anybody can come in and put their entry. But the information needs to be encyclopaedia type of information, not too sales-oriented." Zweig said, adding that Wikipedia is effective because it can come up and No. 1 or No. 2 on the list of search results.

Other than Wikipedia, podcasting and virtual world sites are increasingly becoming a preferred marketing platform.

"A couple of car companies are actually launching cars there. You can also rent new cars or buy one in Second Life (the virtual world). The Harvard Law School has a class there, too," Zweig said.

BUSINESS IMPACT. Social media is a powerful tool that spreads word quickly, so the nature of the content needs to be transparent. "For brands or companies to present messages to people via social media, the brands need to be perceived as being honest, truthful and transparent. For example, if a company has made a faulty product, they should admit it," Zweig said.

And if a company has a good online strategy, social media sites can be used as a weapon in crisis management.

So, the challenge for companies is that they have to tap on this opportunity fast because a lot of information is instantaneous.

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