With the advent of the Internet, it is easier for small businesses to market their products and services. The variety of social media tools, available today in the market, has made it easy for businesses to reach out to a wider consumer network and encourage brand loyalty towards their products or services. Web 2.0, a second generation of web based services, has led businesses into the arena of social media marketing. Traditional marketing and its classical 4 “P’s”, being Product, Price, Place and Promotion have been changed to suit the current needs and is extended by adding the fifth “P”, being Participation.
Today, competition has increased because of the information glut caused by various media specialists believing in social media marketing for business promotion. If you want to maintain brand loyalty, visibility is the key. To be visible on the Internet, word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool used by businesses. The fifth “P” or Participation comes into play in such a situation as it allows you and the customer to interact with each other, thereby developing a mutually beneficial relationship.
So, you might ask that how exactly does one use and benefit from this fifth “P” of marketing or Participation? Web 2.0 marketing experts have claimed that there are four steps that need to be followed in order to maximize the Participation factor in promoting your business. The first step is to listen to the customers for which you have to monitor all talk that is generated about your company. In order to do so, you may use a RSS reader as most of these conversations are RSS enabled. The second step is to create awareness about your brand and you can do this by using social media tools to your advantage. Blogs, Wiki, etc can be used to your advantage for creating brand perception among customers. The third step is to measure the extent of presence of your brand.
Social media experts claim that after you have completed the first three steps, you have to Participate. This can be done by way of participating in existing blogs, sending e-mails, creating chat rooms on your website where customers can talk to you about their problems, and even by allowing customers to post testimonials about your brand and company. In short, participation means allowing the customer to have a say in all activities of the company, making sure that they are involved in the entire brand loyalty process, rather than being led by the company.
By using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Del.icio.us or other such sites, you could create a fan-base for your company, who in turn could become your loyal customer and popularise your offerings online. Another method is to publish information or videos regarding your company and invite comments on the same. Start a blog on your own website, a place where customers can voice their feelings and be assured of a response and action, if required. On a concluding note, Participation is basically making sure that your presence is felt by the customers at all times and to make them convinced of your interest in their welfare.