Social Media

The way consumers react to advertising has changed also, just placing an advert on the TV or even onto the internet doesn’t work anymore, consumers know that all adverts are doing is telling them to buy something. Adverts were a one way conversation, but now, people want more than just to be told what to buy; they want to be able to talk to the brand and ask why.  The consumer now decides whether they want to listen to the advertisement or look at the message on a billboard. Companies now have to find a way to engage with their audience or they will just ignore the advertisement like usual. Social media is one way that companies are trying to connect with their audience. Using sites like ‘Facebook’, ‘YouTube’ or ‘Twitter’ they set up fan pages or accounts to talk with consumers. As stated before T-Mobile is one of the companies at the forefront with these new advertising methods, social media being a large part of their recent campaigns although they are not using it to its full potential. The sites that companies use are not ones that can force people to see what they say, people have to opt into it, and on ‘Facebook’ this is called ‘liking’ the page. Without ‘liking’ the company’s page they won’t see anything that the company posts on their profile. This gives the consumer a level of power over the adverts that they do not get with traditional methods.
Social media has become more popular as years passed, from 2007 to 2009 the amount of engagement customers were getting grew by 246million people. More companies are joining social media sites, the most common are ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ but one of the most successful accounts for a company has to be Compare The Market.com’s meerkat campaign. The campaign for the motor insurance company has changed the rules of insurance marketing, it isn’t all serious anymore. The campaign featured a Russian meerkat named Aleksandr Orlov complaining because people were visiting his website, Compare the Meerkat.com to get an insurance quote. The advert was released in January 2009 and has grown in popularity throughout the year winning awards such as the 2010 British Television Award. In an attempt to make sure people don’t confuse his site with the insurance one ‘Aleksandor’ has taken to the internet’s social networking sites to help stop the confusion. The company created a ‘YouTube’, ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’ site for him, where  ‘Aleksandor’ writes his own updates, which are written in the same way he speaks in the advertisements which helps to make the pages seem real. The ‘Facebook’ page has 769,631 fans, a lot of whom interact with ‘Aleksandor’ and post comments on his updates or on his page. The page is in complete character at all times, never actually updating about the insurance company or their deals, only about Compare the Meerkat or what ‘Aleksandor’ is doing. The campaign has created a surge in popularity not just for the insurance company, but also for meerkats themselves. Compare the Meerkat.com is a real site which people are able to go on and vote for meerkats, the site alone has received over 3.6million hits since its launch in 2009. Compare the Market have gained a hefty profit of £62 million since its release, up 16% from the last year. Although the campaign was well-liked when only on the TV the use of social media has created even more interest in the brand, the character of Aleksandor now has a whole family background to his story which the adverts use to help portray ‘Aleksandors’ anger that people continually confuse the websites. Because of the admiration of the meerkat a pop up store even appeared in London’s Regent Street, selling all of its merchandise and the creature even has his own autobiography out that in ‘Aleksandors’ own words are “selling like hot centipede cakes”.
Social media allows the consumer to have a conversation with a company in a simple, fast way. Contacting companies used to mean having to go onto the official brands website, finding the ‘contact us’ section and either contacting them via a form or calling them. Now all one has to do is ‘like’ a fan page on ‘Facebook’ and write a comment and wait for a reply, which the time spent waiting is moderately less than for an email from the official site and is uncomplicated. According to Glen Parker of Wave and their research into the socialisation of brands, in 2008 85% of people questioned said they had visited an official brand/company website in the last 6 months, in the newest survey in 2010 only 75% said they had, showing a big decrease in just two years.
Social media doesn’t always work out for a company in a good way; the computer company Dell experienced this first hand. In 2005 Jeff Jarvis bought a computer from Dell, after encounting problems with his laptop he contacted Dell and even though he had paid for a four year in-home service plan, engineers refused countless times to visit his house to fix his computer. Jarvis was angry at the low level of customer service he had got from Dell and began blogging about his experience with the company. His blog was read by many people, and other people who had suffered the same service started blogging about their experience. The amount of unhappy customers of Dell highlighted the fact that Dell’s customer service was below standard. The fiasco was named Dell Hell, and seriously impacted the company’s reputation and stock prices. Dell then invested $150 million in their customer service operations, also launching three new websites, a customer services blog in 2006 and in 2007 IdeaStorm, a website to allow users to post feedback and ideas while gaining responses from other users and Dell representatives and StudioDell where customers could upload Dell related videos. They also took to using ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ and according to Revolution (2010) Dell recently declared they gained £3.8million sales through ‘Twitter’ alone.
Sites like ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ are free to use, so for companies to utilise them is not only allowing customers to engage with them on an easier level but it also cost effective for the company. There are half a billion users active on ‘Facebook’, this is a huge number and shows the scope for a simple fan page on the site.

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