If you’re a business that’s just starting out then chances are you’re not going to have a particularly large budget for your marketing and public relations efforts. A dedicated PR team and advertising campaigns for TV, radio and print are more than likely going to be outside of your reach.
Thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, though, a small budget is no longer a barrier to promoting your business worldwide, if you know how to harness the power of online marketing and social media.
There are a number of benefits to using an online marketing campaign, and chief among these is lower costs – for starters, it’ll cost you absolutely nothing to set up an account with Facebook/Twitter/MySpace/Bebo and start communicating directly with consumers.
For Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaigns you can set a nominal budget each month, say $10, and then review the results at the end of each month and dedicate more or less money to different search engines and keywords, depending on which ones are bringing you the best click-through rates.
Furthermore, with social media you can get directly to your target market. With a traditional advertising campaign you’re basically throwing your money and message into the air in the hope that it will land on the heads of a few interested parties. With social media, though, you can narrow your efforts down to the specific group of people who are interested in your product and then speak directly to them, one-on-one, which humanises your brand, engenders a sense of trust and community between the brand and the consumers, and provides you with direct feedback from the people who know best – your customers.
A common misconception is that a social media marketing campaign is only going to reach a narrow demographic of tech-savvy Gen X and Gen Y web geeks – yet nothing could be further from the truth. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of web users aged 40 and above who use social media is growing constantly, and research backs this up – a 2009 survey by Insidefacebook.com shows that 22% of registered users of Facebook were aged between 35 and 65, with the fastest growing demographic being women over 55.
It’s important, though, to make sure you’re targeting the right social media, especially when it comes to international campaigns. If you’re interested in reaching consumers in Japan, for instance, then it’s no good concentrating your efforts on Facebook because 80% of Japanese social media users are signed up with Mixi.jp, just as Xanga rules the roost in Hong Kong and Orkut in Brazil.
‘Crowdsourcing’ is another great development of Web 2.0 that can be used to commercial advantage. The concept basically does what it says on the tin – for those not in the know, it means to put out an open call to the lumpen mass of internet users to come together and assist with the completion of a project; think of Wikipedia as an archetypal crowdsourcing project. Crowdsourcing can be an extremely effective way to achieve a business goal or to increase your brand awareness – not to mention being cheap – and it’s a great way to get consumers directly involved with your brand.
For instance, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest open-access arts festival – recently ran a crowdsourcing project via Twitter to design their 2010 programme cover. Fans were encouraged to tweet their suggestions for illustrations to adorn the cover and selected suggestions were then drawn by a professional illustrator, whose work was streamed live online. The project was a great success in terms of both building hype about the 2010 Fringe and for strengthening the sense of community and crowd participation that is an essential ingredient of the Fringe’s success.
Lost in Translation?
In another example, Facebook crowdsourced the translation of their localized sites – over 300,000 users helped to translate content into 70 languages using the Facebook translation applications. However, crowdsourcing for technical work such as translation can have its pitfalls – by relying on anonymous internet users to provide and compile data, there is no quality assurance, and languages are particularly tricky beasts; they change constantly, evolving and morphing between regions and dialects, and the potential for error is great.
Getting the amorphous masses to translate your content for a web page or campaign may seem like a cheap and easy way to step over the language-hurdle, but how will you know precisely what your translated text is really saying? You don’t want to end up like Pepsi, whose Taiwanese translation of ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ came back as ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’, or chicken entrepreneur Frank Purdue, whose slogan ‘It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken’ turned up on Mexican billboards in translated into Spanish as ‘It takes a tough man to make a chicken aroused.’ Probably best to get a professional translator to either do your translation work from the start, or look over it before it goes out to the world, then.
For the savvy entrepreneur, the online realm has a wealth of ways to get your brand out there and to start connecting with the punters for minimal expense, and when used in combination with more traditional public relations strategies – such as press releases targeted at media sources – your company will be impossible to stop.