Sunday, May 8, 2011

Influence of Social Media Presence on Businesses

I stumbled across an interesting article today in the WSJ talking about the amount of influence a business can have through a web presence without an actual website.

Since in class we’ve discusses a few times about this reliance between media and advertising, I thought it would be interesting to talk about advertising online and the influences certain forms of advertising can have on the web.

These days when we hear about a business for the first time, chances are the first place we will turn to check information about the business will be through the internet. As potential customers, we do this to find and learn information about the companies we hear about. Therefore, it is important for any business to have an online web presence these days.

According to the WSJ’s article, “A Web Presence Without a Website”, rather than investing the money and time to host and manage a website dedicated to their business, new entrepreneurs are taking increasing advantage of establishing a social media presence.

It’s an easy and cheap form of advertising when it comes to promoting any business. It puts part of spreading the message of a business in the hands of the customers (so there is always the risk a business’s message may bring negative exposure), but through social media, a business can gain exposure not through that business’s self-promotion, but through the people who have received goods or services through that business.

Businesses use social media to gain exposure for their products, services and brands. The alternative is traditional advertising, but social media is uniquely valuable to small businesses for two reasons. First, it’s cheaper. But it also ensures that people are hearing about your business from a source they trust more than an advertisement: friends and family.

Quite a few entrepreneurs have found success relying on social media to expand their business. Take Reid Travis of Panchero’s, for example. Travis promotes his restaurant through Facebook by claiming, “We’re not focused on marketing to our followers, fans and readers,” he says. “Our primary goal is to connect with them...the best advice I can give from my adventures in the social realm is to listen more than you talk and don’t be scared to let go of the reigns. You’re definitely not going to be able to control the entire message out there; be okay with that.”

Some businesses have even been able to see online sales go up in proportion to Twitter followers. Joe Johnston of Liberty Market will actually tweets regular customers asking them how the food was, for example.

“People ask me if we have ‘made money’ with Twitter. Absolutely yes. But not how most business think. We have solidified loyalty and have our name out there, front of mind. Because of that, many social media meet-ups use our place. Patience! One has to believe that increased loyalty and awareness are a key to business growth.”

There is no doubt that newspapers rely heavily on revenue from advertising to succeed, but with business’s relying on free and relatively easy-to-manage advertising methods through social media like Facebook and Twitter (and with customers consistently flocking to these sites to check a business’s reputation), how will this affect the newspaper industry?

Perhaps the drop in newspaper advertising may be due to the drop in circulation, but at the same time social media sites probably have an equal influence in the direction of the newspaper industry as well when it comes to advertising.

So although a lot of news is being geared toward an online direction, perhaps advertising should also be considered to have just as a powerful influence when it comes to the future of the newspaper industry.

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