Many businesses, particularly new or small ones, struggle to make themselves known among young consumers. Young people who are just starting to make their own purchasing decisions are the best advertising targets for new companies that want to establish loyal customer bases. To do this, these companies need to seek out young people in their own territory. Businesses can reach young people by embracing social media in its many forms.
Facebook is currently the most popular social media platform. It is free to use and is thought to be the coolest vehicle for online communication by college students and recent graduates. People in this age group use Facebook to communicate with each other and to craft their own online personas. The key to Facebook’s popularity lies in the way it makes everything public. Conversations that should be private can be viewed by anyone on comment walls. Personal candid photographs can be seen by strangers. Facebook users enjoy making these seemingly private things public because it makes them appear to be the centers of large social circles. A conversation made public proves that friendly conversations are happening at all. A business that mimics the social habits of young people on Facebook has a very good chance of establishing a strong brand identity.
There are special page formats that have been designed for use by businesses but many choose to present themselves as singular characters that customers can add to their friend lists. Registering as a person on Facebook allows customers to send private messages. A company needs to carefully consider the information that will be made available on its Facebook page. A store, restaurant or bar needs to post its hours of operation in a prominent location. Cover charges and food or drink specials should also be posted. Status updates can be used to great effect by savvy businesses. They can write about special events or discounts and instantly make that information available to everyone on their friend lists.
The downside of using Facebook as a marketing tool is that it must be maintained on a constant basis. Facebook users expect instant responses to emails and wall postings. A potential customer who makes an inquiry will not be won over if his message goes unanswered. Paid ads that appear in the Facebook sidebar can be used to generate more public interest in the brand.
Twitter’s use as a marketing tool is still being explored and tested. As with Facebook, a company can easily open a free account and post updates. Twitter users view others’ tweets from their own home pages; they rarely visit other people’s profiles. Because of this, a company must post very frequently in order to stay present in the minds of its customers. A good way to draw attention to the brand would be to offer special contests or promotions exclusively through Twitter postings. People will follow the company’s Twitter account in the hopes of winning something.
Sponsored tweets are advertisements in the form of Twitter updates that appear in the tweet feeds of everyone who uses the service. These tweets are usually used to promote major media events such as film release dates and television season finales. A small business that does not have national reach is not likely gain new customers with sponsored tweets. Twitter users are media-savvy but are not as invested in performing publicly as Facebook users are. Many people sign up to Twitter not to make their own posts but rather to follow celebrities and companies that offer special online incentives. These people are interested in following companies that will value early loyalty. A company that offers small prizes to its followers for posting promotional tweets will gain lifelong customers.
Blogging can be used as an advertising tool but only if it is not treated solely as promotion. Readers of a company blog are well aware of the promotional nature of the site. They do not need to be constantly encouraged to make purchases. In fact, this may alienate readers. Instead, a company blog should contain information about new products. Printable coupons can be posted for short periods of time. Employees can take turns writing personal entries that will allow customers to feel like they have friendly relationships with the company.
The choice to embrace social media may necessitate the hiring of a new employee whose job will be to manage the various platforms. A young person who uses social media for his own entertainment will know how to reach people his own age and make the company seem relevant. Social media presents businesses with the opportunity to experiment with new advertising techniques without investing a lot of money in risky campaigns. In this age of DVRs and commercial-free radio stations, social media provides the best ways to direct advertising toward young people.