Based on current trends in today’s Web 2.0 marketplace, you’d be hard pressed to find a single piece of information on the world wide web that doesn’t have a button to “Recommend on Facebook” or “Share on Twitter” (by the way, be sure to click above to share this blog on your favorite site). Businesses large and small are catching on to the social media craze, and developing new techniques to harness the power of this new form of “personalized” mass communication.
Experts are adamant on the question of whether social media does or does not drive consumers’ purchasing decisions, with each side touting research studies to back their respective claims. But is it really so simple to quantify how these new media impact the customers’ mindset of a brand? Can all the variables truly be account for? Most studies are inconclusive.
One of the aforementioned communication techniques businesses are using, by which they utilize word of mouth from the general public in order to accomplish tasks, has been dubbed crowdsourcing. This is a concept that has been used frequently on social media web sites, blogs, etc., particularly on the quirkiest, fastest information channel of them all: Twitter. Fueled by the modern individual’s desire for immediate gratification and information that appeals to customized tastes, Twitter (famously in 140 character “Tweets”) “asks ‘what’s happening’ and makes the answer spread across the globe to millions, immediately.”
In a new era where Generation Y now outnumbers Baby Boomers, there are certainly arguments one can make for supporting new business plans that involve social media. However, while everyone has heard of the concept and knows how easily information can be passed from business to the consumer, there are still several gray areas in terms of how these sites actually make money. Facebook didn’t turn a profit until five years into its development, and even now the company is hesitant to go public based on an uncertainty of what the future holds for its business model.
Still, the undeniable power of word-of-mouse marketing has spilled into web sites like Twitter. Even the largest corporations are feeling the heat from consumers who might be unhappy with current business practices. Take, for example, the recent NY Times story of the eight-year-old Harry Winsor, who received a stern letter from Boeing on the importance of intellectual-property law after mailing the following drawing to the company’s design team. The kid’s father, who conveniently enough manages an ad agency, decided to discuss the story on his blog and Twitter profile. After receiving support from several others on Twitter, Boeing eventually took notice and decided to re-think its policy, contacting Harry directly in order to mitigate the situation. Is this an example of how techniques like crowdsourcing are changing the way businesses interact with consumers, ultimately opening the line of communication between us and providing higher quality all around? Or, is this simply an isolated incident of how a father used a mix-up by a large corporation in order to foster some free publicity?
“Social Media Helps Drive Purchases”
“Social Media Doesn’t Drive Purchases?”
“How Exactly Is Facebook Making Money?”
“Boeing’s Social-Media Lesson”