Social media has radically altered the power of advertising and marketing companies. With the rise of social media, consumers’ power has increased. Through blogs, product reviews, Twitter, YouTube and other sites, consumers can voice their feedback and they have an authenticity that often carries more weight with consumers than the companies’ own marketing and advertising. I know that I carefully read product reviews when contemplating a purchase, whether it be a book on Amazon.com, a shirt from LL Bean or a hotel room in Hawaii. It used to be that feedback was provided by word of mouth or direct contact with a company. Now one good or bad review can be seen by a multitude online.
This shift has diluted companies’ power to direct their message and required that they be more responsive to consumer feedback. Just yesterday a friend told me that he provided a review on a purchase, noting that one of three products he bought did not work. When he said as much in his product review, he was immediately contacted by the retailer and offered a replacement. His experience is now business as usual for most companies. The risks of not being responsive are now too great as one bad review can last a lifetime on the Internet.
At the same time, social media has given companies a channel that enables them to integrate their messaging and engage their consumers. First, advertisers can now get more value from their mass media. Ads seen on television have a much longer life now and potentially more power. They can be seen on websites and YouTube as well as integrated into online campaigns. Second, consumers can now engage with companies by suggesting and even sometimes creating their own ads, posting their pictures which are then included in ads, etc. Or they can simply indicate their brand loyalty by becoming fans on Facebook.
While social media has forced companies to be more responsive and in tune with the needs and wishes of consumers, it has also given them a channel by which to communicate more effectively one to one.