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The onset of the digital age has not changed the core principles of markets, even though online advertising campaigns use different concepts for their delivery. Online marketing can be targeted more precisely than TV or press campaigns, and devices like viral videos may seem to behave in a radically different way compared to traditional market tools, but the core elements remain the same – create a strong, visible brand with positive connotations and incentives to buy. In other words, create or identify a need, then fulfil that need.
Advertising through social media networks, be they professional networks like LinkedIn or more diverse sites like Facebook and Twitter, may also seem to be a radical evolution in the concepts of marketing, but despite the unprecedented opportunity it gives to interact with customers in a personal and precisely targeted way, social media is just a new kind of environment in which to apply the same core principles of successful marketing.
The real difference that social media marketing offers is in the ability it affords enterprises to reinforce the brand messages it has created through its overall advertising strategy. Any company that becomes a successful citizen in online communities like Facebook and LinkedIn has the opportunity to interact with consumers in a way that has never before been possible.
Social media allows companies to listen to their consumers, communicate with them about their positive and negative experiences, and mine the wealth of opinions expressed through social networks to inform everything from marketing strategy to product development.
The close, personal relationships that can be built up with consumers through social media offer exciting new possibilities, such as the ability to create brand evangelists, who help to push a brand by the most powerful means: personal recommendation. Such an opportunity does not arise with traditional marketing strategies, but new phenomena such as this still depend on the fundamental marketing principles of visibility, consistency and a clear brand identity.
Social media networks do require a new and very different approach to marketing if they are to generate the return on investment that businesses want, but underlying this approach is the same marketing wisdom that has been built up over decades. Getting the most from social media marketing does require innovative thinking, but companies don’t have to tear up their old marketing plans and start from scratch.