We have heard about the “social media revolution” for quite some time now. Since mid-2001, when the first sites that foster collaborative networks emerged, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace and LinkedIn have produced dramatic changes in the way people communicate. And it is not surprising that Web 2.0, as it is called today, has brought with it an avalanche of new concepts and methodologies used by proponents who manage to see potential global benefits.
Social networking has changed our life habit, and more and more people understand the need to be present in them. Statistically, YouTube has sees 20 hours of video uploaded per minute, Facebook has more than 250 million users worldwide, and Wikipedia contains over 13 million articles written in 260 languages.
However, the magnitude of the popularity of this phenomenon has already exceeded the levels of simple social networking; the uses these tools had at first have now taken on an entirely new approach: before the platforms were used merely as a way to meet people, participate in activities that were published on the Internet or to share content. Now they are powerful tools whose use is oriented more towards mass disclosure of information, generating marketing strategies and advertising campaigns, and increased sales in all types of businesses. While not all companies rely on this tool as part of their business development or long-term investment, more and more companies are starting to understand the importance of using social networks and the impact they have on their bottom line. And is there some truth behind the new approach to social networks, as they have abruptly revolutionized the concept of marketing and business strategies. Take, for example, the following formula: the use of keywords in Internet search, filter the search engines, especially Google, to certain blogs and the positioning of a site in the search. The best result, in most cases, some assumption gives an awareness campaign through social networks; number of fans on Facebook pages; number of Twitter mentions achieved; number of subscriptions reached in RSS feeds or podcasts; or even number of clicks made or using Google AdWords as a method for online advertising.
A specific case is that of companies like Pepsi, which spent $20 million on a social media campaign, or Dell, which is making $6.5 million in sales through Twitter. Another case in point was the launch of the Nike+ social network, which generated $56 million and brought about a community of runners around the net. Even Starbucks Argentina did not want to be left behind: in addition to the traffic that its Facebook page is generating, it also created “My Starbucks Idea”, a social network in which the users are able to pose ideas for improvements and vote and comment to decide definitely whether or not the ideas on the blog should be implemented. These are all clear examples that enhance the theory, which has already become reality, of the enormous and endless possibilities offered by social media advertising and the companies’ marketing goals.
It is no longer a question of wanting to be part of Web 2.0 or not: now the question is do we have the skills to take full advantage of these online tools? The challenge is to develop the ability to get the clearest possible picture of where the social networking market is headed, and then get there first.
(The Myth) is a reality: the Era of Social Media is here to stay. And those who first understood the potential of the 2.0 generation, who learn to live with -and take advantage of- these tools of mass communication, are those who come away with the biggest piece of the virtual pie.