Whereas traditional advertising (including Websites) is the equivalent of shouting through a megaphone at people, social media is the equivalent of walking through the crowd and conversing with each person individually.
And all it takes is little more than a couple of staff members to act as virtual bar keeps to sustain the party atmosphere. Throw in a handful of traditional marketing exercises, such as product give-aways or competitions, and the results will be even better. Even surveys can be used as a method of engaging users.
So is it time to abandon traditional Websites?
Of course not. The chief problem is that, to continue the metaphor above, most social media sites are invitation-only parties. You have to create an account to participate. Millions of us have done just that, but it's still only a percentage of all online individuals.
Invitations to the party are easy to come by, but not everybody wants to attend. Some people just don't get what it's all about. Some people get what it's about but actively don't like it (a significant number, if my personal experience is anything to go by; the Facebook hate crowd is an ever-present minority).
A surprising number of people use the Web like it's 1999. Not everybody wants a sports car. Some are pretty happy with station wagons.
What's needed within a business is a policy of embracing all new media and using each element to its strengths. Websites should be seen as the trunk of the tree of your online marketing, from which everything else is a branch. Websites are good for static but vital information, such as company details or spec lists for products. Not only isn't there space for that kind of thing on Facebook, or in Twitter posts, but it would look out of place.
Facebook and Twitter should ideally be used to launch anything that's new, whether that's products, services, or initiatives. It should be used where direct engagement with users can be useful.
Even e-mail has a place. Some companies partner it to Facebook to collect e-mail addresses to which discount vouchers are sent, for example.
Used wisely and competently, social media shouldn't increase your marketing budget significantly either, especially compared to the costs of creating and promoting a Website, or marketing within traditional media
The next time a Facebook friend of yours "likes" or "shares" a product or service, join in the fun and learn how it's done. Often it's blissfully simple but devastatingly effective.
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