Social media apps … the next BIG thing?

Social Media Apps ... fad or future?

So you have a Facebook site with a million followers, and 700,000 people follow your Twittering. It’s a good achievement, and as a brand markateer you can be justifiably proud of your efforts in establishing a meaningful, two-way relationship with your customers, and potential customers.

But this is the fickle world of the internet, where today’s miracle success is most likely superseded by the time you click “send”. Simply having a massive following in social media doesn’t mean you have massive sales to match. And let’s face it, the only reason a company splashes into the social media ocean is because it ultimately wants to boost sales of its products and services. We might use social media as a defacto CRM platform, or as a way of understanding and connecting with our customers and target audience, but really, we only do so because we want them to like us, and therefore, like our products or services enough to buy them.
And as marketeers, we simply can’t ignore the numbers of people flocking to the multitude of social media platforms. When we begin talking hundreds of millions, and potentially, as in China and India, numbers in the billions, it’s a marketplace too tempting to resist.
But how do you stand out from the crowd in such a, well, crowded marketplace?Especially when your customers are there to socialise, not purchase?
Enter, the application. Thanks to our friends at Apple, we’ve all become maniapps, sorry, I mean maniacs, franticaly downloading to our phones and desktops everything from Pizza Hut menus to sex advice apps and how-to guides for building our own arks to avoid the disaster predicted for 2012!
So how can an application or widget help sell my products via social media? The answer is not so straightforward as building a tool to download your product page directly to a customer’s phone. That might work for Pizza Hut or McDonald’s, but it’s unlikely to work for someone considering a new car, or planning a luxury holiday. And when you’re talking social media, what you really want is to build an application that immediately generates word of mouth recommendations, and therefore, multiple downloads. It has to be cool enough, or useful enough, or entertaining enough to go viral in a big way. Because it’s the viral aspect which is the key to success of any application.
For example, selling a PC or laptop online has traditionally been about launching a series of product pages filled with product information, customer testimonials, price comparisons and so on. You then spend a small fortune on SEO and SEM along with display advertising and email blasts to drag as many people to your product page as possible. If you’ve done well, you’re likely to get a 10-17% response rate for your efforts. If you get an average response, you’re talking 3-5%.
In other words, your efforts will work, but your efforts will also cost you. Now, let’s say you put aside part of your budget to build a useful application, something such as a widget that allows users to instantly correlate all of their social media contacts. Such a tool is useful to the user because they type in a contact, the widget goes out and searches all known social media sites for matching names and allows the user to tick box the relevant profiles so instantly he has gone from a business card to a detailed social and business profile of someone he or she has just met. All thanks to an application on his or her phone. Now, if that application was brought to you by say, Dell, the user is unlikely to protest if every so often a new product or service was marketed in the application’s picture window. Especially not if a simple click then connected you to the relevant product page for more information, or allowed you to invite your friends so a “group buy” could gain you discounts on that product.
The user would quickly invite their friends to download the application if they all stood to benefit from a decent discount.
Dell sells more products, and the users all gain a discount.
What’s more, the company then has a permanent “foot in the door” so to speak, and can begin gathering data on the user, and the user’s network, to specifically target offers and up-sell ideas via the application.
Or how about the car company that builds a cool motoring game application? Users can compete against each other online or via their mobiles, with each new level unlocking a new feature to add to their vehicle. It might be leather seats, alloy wheels or a bigger stereo. The end result is that as you progress against yourself or your friends through the game, you customize a better and better vehicle, which happens to be on sale at your nearest dealer, which the application can advise you the location of. Such an application can even be used as a competition to increase the viral aspect. The best lap time or most individualised vehicle wins the user that very same car for real.
Again, the application links the user to the user’s social media account as a defacto CRM system, great for follow-up marketing.
These might sounds like ideas that have been done before. They are, and that’s the beauty of it. These ideas work, and added to your social media site, can prove invaluable as a marketing tool, or CRM device. They are generally low-cost to develop, and if done just right, can have a massive viral impact that translates into product sales while establishing your company as a fun or useful social media contact.
It’s just one way of standing out in the crowd.

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