Social media has developed into an invaluable marketing tool across industries for the promotion of products as well as customer networking. Allowing companies to become more attuned to customer concerns and needs, the various outlets for social media have revealed unprecedented marketing opportunities. Through proper utilisation of social media, companies continue to watch their market shares grow while customers gain a greater voice in the development and distribution of a product. In this way, social media has proved to be an ideal medium through which to raise awareness and support for a product both internally between branches of a firm and externally with potential clientele.

Inexpensive, efficient and globally applicable, the appeal of social media to marketers is unmatched. While some companies hesitated at first to embrace the new medium, the evolution of public creative competitions through social media and the ease of integration into every day advertising and promotional campaigns hints at the notion that social media may prove to be the closest example of Marketing Symbiosis between producers and consumers to date.

Coca-Cola

An International brand, Coca-Cola was introduced in 1886 and has since developed into an extremely lucrative empire. While often cutting edge in its advertising campaigns and gimmicks, in 2009 VP of global advertising Jonathan Mildenhall admitted the company has been lagging in effective social media based advertising. Since the beginning, Coke has based its success by closely following customer sentiment. In fact due to staggering negative public backlash in 1985 following the release of ‘New Coke,’ the company returned to the original Coke formula less than 3 months later. For this reason it is particularly interesting the Coca-Cola was initially hesitant in utilising social media outlets, a particularly customer oriented marketing medium.

However, Mildenhall emphasised the company has finally embraced the era of social media and its importance to Coca-Cola’s continuing success in the market place. Recently, Coke has expanded its grasp on this area of marketing and developed several innovative projects that are certain to continue to evolve in the future. Social media marketing is an ideal outlet for a company who has historically been so attentive to customer concerns.

Perhaps inspired by loyal users and fans generating and maintaining the company’s Facebook fan page, Coca-Cola has begun to capitalise on User Generated Content (UGC) in international advertising and promotional campaigns. A particularly popular project is a weekly competition hosted by the company in Mexico where people create and vote on product inspired television commercials. Success of Coke’s initial venture into the world of social media makes it clear that the implementation of exciting ad campaigns integrating social media and UGC will soon emerge.

Furthermore, Coke proved its daring marketing attitude by venturing into a particularly unique sector of social media. In 2007, Coke launched a public competition to design a ‘virtual experience machine’ for Residents of Second Life, an online virtual reality. Part of the company’s ‘Virtual Thirst’ competition, the campaign signified the vast opportunities and avenues for creative marketing in the social media market.

Creating Community

Social media marketing is not just reserved for lucrative corporations. Downtown Ithaca, New York, has masterminded a citywide hide-and-seek. Each week, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance posts clues to the location of a hidden garden gnome on its Fan Facebook Page. The excitement of a city wide scavenger hunt is escalated with the promise of free coffee and bagels for the office of the individual who finds the gnome first. A novel idea, one can email or SMS the location of the hidden gnome and the appealing prize has resulted in some offices actually compiling ‘gnome finding teams.’

The ongoing competition aims to continue to boost a ‘community’ feel within downtown Ithaca. What’s more is this creative game demonstrates that the range of social media outlets and their potential are not limited to certain industries.

Networking Internally and Externally

Interim Healthcare wanted to produce a documentary highlighting the employment appeal and benefits of working at their company. With over 300 offices, the company decided to establish an internal contest to determine which office would be featured. Many of the offices participated in creating 3 minute videos detailing “A Day in the Life of a Nurse.” Afterwards, the videos were uploaded to ‘InterTube’ for the final selection process. Creative and unique, the videos ended up having positive unforeseen results. The videos increased the employees’ sense of community and allowed offices across the US to match names and faces with emails and conference calls. Despite the initial goal of Interim, the use of social media produced positive external and internal results that required minimal project funding and supervision.

While social media has been used in many other creative avenues as well, one thing this handful of examples highlights is not only the lucrative benefit of social media from a corporation’s perspective but also the unexpected positive externalities it generates. From increasing customer satisfaction by giving them a greater voice in product promotion and distribution to nurturing employee welfare and sense of community, social media marketing has proven to benefit both producers and consumers alike. Mutually beneficial, social media may be the closest example of marketing symbiosis to date. For this reason, it will be particularly interesting to see how social media evolves in the future and if it will remain a positive medium for both parties.

Image by Aussiegal.

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