Taking Facebook Seriously: Turning Pastime into Revenue Strategy

Today’s guest blogger is Samantha Porter, who is a writer and researcher for Marketing Degree, an online marketing education site who is interested in, and predominantly writes about, the way technology has changed our lives. She also writes about all aspects of marketing and sales on an online resource that covers a multitude of topics, including who should earn marketing certifications and how they can improve your business.

 

 

 

The importance of social media marketing has been remarked upon multiple times by Mindjumpers, most recently in an article about using Facebook games to build up your brand. In fact, social media marketing is a relatively new branch of advertising that has taken the digital world by storm, as I will discuss today.

Not long ago, the majority of web users considered social media to be a strictly leisure-based enterprise. However, industry experts now extol the virtues of social media marketing – if used effectively.
Ten years ago, sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were yet to exist. Today, this form of neo-technology is integral throughout the corporate world. According to MDG Advertising, 76% of businesses use social media to accomplish commercial goals, while 64% of professional marketers incorporate these platforms into their advertising plans. Marketers gauge the success of social media campaigns using a handful of metrics, including site traffic, conversion rate, new fans/subscribers, re-posts/re-tweets, page views and increased revenue. In addition to these metrics, roughly 72% of marketers said social media helped them close deals. Significant ROIs were also reported by 15.4% of companies that use Facebook, 11.4% of companies that use Twitter and 10.9% of companies that use LinkedIn. And 64% of businesses have stated that using social media allowed them to recruit high-quality employees.

Why is social media marketing so effective?
If so many companies are able to capitalize on social media marketing, the question remains: Why is it such an effective business strategy? James Debono of Social Media Today says it is because social media is ubiquitous in contemporary business. Roughly 94% of all businesses utilize at least one social media platform as a brand marketing strategy. The leading platform, Facebook, earned $3.8 billion last year in advertising alone – and the estimate for 2012 surpasses $5 billion. But the lucrative results are reciprocal; Debono notes companies that utilize social media can greatly increase their exposure and brand recognition. Furthermore, social media marketing is in any company’s best interest simply because, chances are, their competition has already beaten them to it. “If you aren’t [using social media for business] already,” he writes, “then you should be.”

Social media marketing: Inarguably cost-effective
Social media marketing is also cost-effective. The most popular platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc – charge nothing of users who want to build profiles on the site and network with potential colleagues. Furthermore, hiring a social media representative to maintain online activity can exponentially increase business returns – especially considering that one person can usually handle the tasks alone. And as Shelley Frost of chron.com notes, the more money a company invests in social media, the greater the dividends: “Including social networking in your business promotional plan allows you to stretch your advertising dollars further than usual,” he writes. “The money you allocate for promotions can go to other forms of advertising or to purchase prizes for social networking contests or promotions.”

Know your audience – and connect!
However, many marketers have noted drawbacks to social media as well. Tracey Sandilands of Demand Media notes that social media is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and updating in order for companies to remain relevant. Manny Mandrusiak of 4Bravo Marketing says that companies often mishandle social media by posting content that is irrelevant and fails to engage visitors – and negative feedback from customers can be viewed by anyone who visits a company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. And while many platforms afford the administrator some convenience, they are not without their limitations; marketers must continue to practice SEO techniques, for instance, to ensure people are visiting the site in the first place.

Despite these drawbacks, social media marketing is considered a standard of modern-day business – and judging by current trends, it is likely to remain this way in the years to come. But businesses need not be intimidated by using social media. By capitalizing on its strengths – and recognizing its limitations – marketers can use social media campaigns to achieve highly lucrative results for their company.

 

 

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.