While many marketers are just beginning the process of exploring social networking, others are light years ahead. A recent Wall Street Journal article describes how high-tech powerhouses like IBM and Microsoft are 453218_browsing_in_pinkscanning their social networking sites for consumer videos and comments that make for good ad campaign material. As writer Emily Steel points out, this strategy moves marketers beyond the traditional practice of incorporating focus group findings into ad campaigns.

Several industry operators say that reviewing consumer-provided data on social networks reveals that the thrust of their ad campaigns is often misdirected.  Ad campaigns tend to focus on the new bells and whistles available in the latest product release. But when looking at online consumer comments, marketers realized that “[p]otential customers tended to care less about technologies themselves than what those technologies could do for them.”  By allocating resources to monitor what is happening online, operators ranging from IBM to Harrah’s are analyzing and applying fresh data to the marketing message.  “Being relevant to consumers is the way to communicate about your brands,” Ms. Sullivan, vice president of marketing for Harrah’s says.

Marketers believe this strategy will help them increase sales and loyalty, especially to online users. But Steel includes another point of view in her article. Not all consumers are online yet or actively participating in social networks. To stay relevant to these consumers, marketers should continue to carry out traditional research and incorporate those findings in ad campaigns as well.

[Source: Steel, Emily. Marketers Find Web Chat Can Be Inspiring, Wall Street Journal, 11.23.09]