Just two years ago no-one could actually say which direction social marketing is heading to. Today, internet marketing is almost all about social media.

In April last year, SocialmediaExaminer.com published the Social Media Marketing Industry Report which tested how marketers are using social media to grow their business. According to the report, 91% of marketed companies indicated they employ social media for marketing purposes, although 65% of them say that they have just started using them for less than a year. Among the most willingly used tools are LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, Twitter being the most popular amongst all of them, followed very closely by Facebook.

Social Media and Its Influence on Business

According to the survey, majority of marketers indicate that social media increase they business online visibility . What is more, 73% who have been using social media for years say that it helped them close business deal, whilst 53.1% reported that new partnerships were gained. The big success with all business possibilities gained through social media syndicate that Social Media in marketing will not stop growing. As a confirmation, at least 67% of marketers plan on increasing their use of blogs, Facebook, video/YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.

I came across this infographic based on Social Media Marketing Industry Report. It shows how marketers are using social media to grow their business:
Everybody’s Doing It: How Marketers Are Utilizing Social Media In 2010
Flowtown

Social Media & Search and Potential Buyers

Having all the above in mind and the fact that we spend more and more time on social networks taking part in discussions and exchanging opinions, we could assume that this behaviour will influence our shopping preferences as this will be the best place to get information about new products etc. A few weeks ago, there were another survey results, “Consumer Shopping Experiences, Preferences, and Behaviors“, published by ATG, which showed something completely opposite. According to the survey, we usually discover new products not via social networks but through search engines and this behaviour is true for every age group. So even those between 18-24, who spend most of the time on social media sites, still go back to Google/ Yahoo/ Bing to find out about new online solutions/ products etc (have a look at the graph below), however 50% of consumers aged 18-34 are using Facebook to “like” merchants, interact with other consumers and friends about products, post images and reviews, seek customer service, look for coupons, and post messages to a merchant’s fan page.

What are the most common way to discover a new online product?

Knowing those two surveys results, it looks like for some organisations would be truly beneficial to adjust slightly their online marketing strategies. I would compare those results to an old version of marketing- cold calling. Ranking somewhere on Google is like making hundreds of marketing calls. If your website start rankings on the 1st page for targeted keywords, its like approaching an interested, potential client. If your website has good content and sells the product well, you might even make a deal! In the meantime, social media people (like account managers, customer service) should join this one-way interest and start a dialog! So new product are being discovered through search engine but the actual closing of a deal will more likely be dictated by your (the seller’s) social media actions.

CONCLUSION (an last example)
Lets take Starbucks. I absolutely love their Facebook page. The possibility to check-in every time I’m in the local branch, as well as receiving promotion codes and just being informed about new campaigns makes me feel like Starbuck’s really wants me to enjoy my morning coffee ritual. Would I visit Costa which I pass every morning on my way to Startbucks? No way! I would not even think about it (sorry costa!)

Although search appears to be the most popular way to find new products, only various social network channels are able to influence a new client to stay loyal to the brand; search seems not to have this capability.