I think we’re beyond realisation that social media is great for reputation and crisis management, customer service, recruitment or mobilising communities around an honorable cause. There is a great amount of case studies to prove it.
But in these financially hazardous times it’s more important than ever for companies to see that they can actually make money on social media tactics, also in a short term perspective. I know that there are many critics who believe that the very “short term” attitude to social media is blasphemous, and reject the notion of social media campaign altogether.
However, there are some brands which succeeded in effectively using social media to improve their business of today. Southwest Airlines and InterContinental Hotels are just two brilliant examples. What is their secret key that helped them to improve their immediate sales, while there are so many others who try in vain? Is it because they were more innovative in their creative concepts, or is it because they were the first to the market to try particular tactics, like Ding-widget and viral PCR promotion?
The suspicion that social media campaigns don’t really bring in the money came to me some while ago, when I kept reading the reports of various campaigns. They notoriously referred to the amount of traffic to the websites, user generated content and blog coverage. But if any one of these companies would hit a jackpot in sales as a direct result of their involvment in social media, wouldn’t they be screaming out loud about it?
The thing is, I don’t really believe it did. The recent digital campaign by Nike+ in Norway , Men VS Women, conducted by the company I work for, clearly showed that there are no plausible correlation between the size of the online community and actual sales of the product. In fact, the team which had fewest members (appr. 3oo) on its Facebook group, run almost twice as much kilometers (and, hence, bought more Nike+ products) than the leading group (appr. 1000). Notice: the campaign is not over yet.
So, does social media sell? Can we use it as a marketing strategy to drive short term sales? From larger business perspective, I think that unless you’re Apple, D&G or Harley Davidson – your brand name won’t sell alone. Apart from the brand loyalty, in these highly competitive times price is likely to be the most important factor for the end user. Together with another two. Context and Timing. And nothing is so JIT (just in time) as social media.