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Social media is key for market researchers, advertisers

NOVEMBER 8, 2011 – In the space of just a few years, social media has managed to transform how people interact with each other and with brands, as well as how they gather and share information.

As James Rogers writes for BtoB magazine, the popularity of social networking and individuals’ apparent willingness to publish details about themselves and their purchasing preferences have been a huge help for business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers. But simply establishing corporate profiles on these websites is not enough to increase sales – companies need to mine the networks for market research and analytics, and create back-and-forth conversations with existing and prospective clients.

“Social media is not a ‘one and done;’ we can’t just buy a pass, thinking that we can get on and off the bus whenever it’s convenient for us,” Rogers notes. He adds that it requires a cultural shift in the business – “It’s actually a business lifestyle change – one that must be woven into the routine fabric of our business.”

He acknowledges that because social media is still its the fledgling stages, the ability to measure the return on the investment of time and money is still shaky.

Rogers admits that CFOs are numbers-oriented: They look at the return on investment through the lens of how many leads have been created. “From there, it’s a big leap to contemplate the ‘return on relationship,'” he says.

Marketers can push corporate leaders and other decision makers to dedicate more resources to the websites, but it’s difficult to quantify exactly how that online interaction translates to higher revenues. In the meantime, marketers can treat the effort as a tactic for developing the brand, gauging the company’s strength against competitors, keeping tabs on corporate communications and a variety of other functions, he says.

Speaking after the recent iStrategy conference, Adam Burns, a MeetTheBoss TV editor, said that for social media use to flourish in the marketing industry, it cannot be weighed down by the burden of expectation. Approaching online interactions as an experiment in customer relations and market research, rather than treating it as something that must immediately create results, will provide the room and freedom for innovation and present an image that is more true to what the business stands for, he said.

“The quicker it can drop this weight of expectation and flex some savvy metrics, the more intrinsic and effective social media will become,” Burns stated.