Recently, I attended a meeting as a marketing consultant at a top consultant firm. I was surprised to hear that popularity on Facebook and Twitter had a direct impact on the performance of a firm. This whetted my appetite to do further research on this topic and explore the relationship between the performance of a firm and its popularity on social networking. To begin with, as the nature of competition has changed drastically in the last decade, it has impacted the way business is done. As it was not feasible for a firm to operate without an office in the early 19th and 20th century, similarly it has become relatively more difficult for firms to outweigh their competitors without having a strong social presence.
Social presence can be defined as the effective use of internet to propagate information regarding the business, market the brand and better understand the needs of the consumers by indulging in continuous communication with consumers. It involves creation of websites to convey information and broadcast advertisements for the firms’ products and creation of virtual communities online to better communicate with the customers.
Extremely popular brands such as McDonalds, PepsiCo, Microsoft and Apple also indulge in creating an extensive presence online. It is important to note that Facebook has 1 Billion active users per month, and if a firm manages to even impact a small group of their target clients, it can do wonder for the firm. To compliment this, the relative cost of reaching the target clients on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook is way lesser than using other mediums of advertisement. Both these benefits are the main reason behind the rush for creating a strong social presence.
Social Networking advertisement- A Double-edged sword
It is crucial to note that social networking sites are double edged sword because of the very nature of their functioning. Jeff Wilson, an executive at Sensei Marketing has argued that social networking also has negative externalities attached with it. The individual users of the social networking can operate anonymously, without carrying any form of guilt, as a mob and most importantly without any accountability. All these factors combined can lead to systematic degradation or defamation of firms’ products and its reputation. An example would be the #McDstories disaster, which was the result of defamation and negative stories about McDonald by a group of people online.
However, a business which has a strong social presence due to constant publications online and propagation of information can better counter any such attempt than one without any social presence.
How to create a social presence?
There are many strategies, which can be employed by firms to affirm a social presence. The multinational firms can take initiative of creation of twitter account and Facebook pages, where the products and services offered by the respective firm can be advertised. However, to gain popularity, it must also extent support to social causes, which are relevant to their target audience. For example, if a country is facing the problem of unfair treatment of labour force, these firms can indulge in creating petition or support groups for people who wish to get more information or extend their support the victims. This would not only enable the company to earn goodwill points but also market its brand.
Firms, which do not have an international presence, can work in collaboration with other local organisation to extend their support for the local cause through their social networking pages, be it Twitter or Facebook. They can carry out their corporate social responsibility and propagate that information by these means, so as to make sure that the information is passed to the consumers. Furthermore, a virtual social community creation can lead to organization of events, which can serve a local cause and increase the popularity of a brand. This also makes it easier for perspective partners to know more about the firm.
Thus, the principal concept of increasing social presence or increasing following on social networks is to treat the cause of the target audience as the cause of the firm and create a sense of goodwill for the firm. Along with that, information regarding the firm would attract consumers or partners, who wish to know more about the firms. Also, engagement with the customers is necessary to provide the customers with unparalleled service and value for money, which can be done very effectively by reading the masses through social networking websites.