"The times they are a changin". Bob Dylan wrote these words nearly 45 years ago. He must have been predicting the future.
It used to be quite common that people assembled at social events and exchanged ideas, recipes, political viewpoints, and suggestions on where to shop for the best value. The 21st century has not replaced the traditional social gathering. However, it has augmented that with the modern and very powerful equivalent – the social media network.
Marketing studies have shown that recommendations from friends and family have the greatest influence on what people purchase. As millions have become attached to various social networking sites that connect people with similar interests worldwide, the circle of influence grows much larger.
While most social media sites are not designed as shopping venues, marketing specialists know that exposure on these sites can be extremely valuable. A prime example is Facebook. Facebook has more than 200 million subscribers worldwide. Members enter their profile on the site. Generally, this includes your demographics, preferences and, often, your occupation. Marketing pros at a company will post an attractive profile for their product or service. As soon as a Facebook member visits that company's profile, they are identified as a potential customer. Most Facebook members openly display their friends' networks. This enables the same company to view this circle of friends also as potential customers. Moreover, as the company can obtain a substantial amount of personal information about its online customers, this information can be extremely helpful in future marketing strategies and product development.
Businesses have discovered that social networks afford exposure to their companies that otherwise might not occur. However, it is wise to keep in mind that these are social networks and acceptance of a commercial presence will require imaginative marketing, rather than mere technical placement of corporate material.
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