Social Networks Can Sell IT

Oleg Maštruko from Mreža magazine (Net magazine) talked to our former executive director Nina Išek Međugorac and our integrated online communications consultant Marko Matejčić on today’s social network capabilities, especially when it comes to using them for the needs of IT companies.


How do social networks change online communication?

Social networks are a natural step in the evolution of communication. Ten years ago in the online world, an average user was searching for news on online portals within specific categories and subcategories, and communicated with friends and acquaintances through mIRC, ICQ, MSN Messenger, e-mail. The arrival of social networks brought us into an era in which all information, whether we are talking about the media, friend or an opinion-maker on the other side of the globe, were all available in real time, in one place, in the comfort of our Facebook or Twitter profile.

How does this change media communication?

In terms of the media, we have to see the evolution in the way information is consumed. Users no longer have the need to invest much effort in order to search for news and expect all relevant news and information to appear in their news feed.

In the same way, in which we used to say ten years ago that something only happened if it appeared in the central news broadcast on Croatian television, now we can use the same analogy and say it didn’t happen unless it appeared on the newsfeed of users. It is a duty of each media outlet to notice that end users are slowly getting more and more comfortable, in other words, they are spending less and less time and effort searching for information. Adaptation to this behaviour is getting stronger, this is witnessed by all Croatian media outlets since their number of social network followers continues to grow and the number of website visitors is stagnating or dropping.

The Change in Communication

How does this change communication in IT and business?

Same rules apply for the business operations of IT companies as they do for the media – end user believes that the duty of any IT company is to recognise their needs and find a way to place the information about solutions that meet their needs on their newsfeeds. For starters, we have the customer support in the form of community management. End users became aware that their satisfaction or dissatisfaction is now shared with a larger number of users that using the standard word of mouth method.

Each user, with their network of friends and followers, is now a media outlet in its own right contributing to the positive or negative perception of the brand. The creativity of users in their enquiries in certain cases can reach more people than through traditional media, and this kind of reactions often get coverage in both online and offline media. On the other hand, we have the sales oriented communication on social networks that is achieving an increasing ROI with the development of new tools and possibilities to share content.

Can direct sales be conducted using social networks?

Social networks are evolving as sales channels every day, and new advertising possibilities and shifts that were made by Facebook alone in the last year are fascinating. However, right at the start, we have to say that social networks are not a magic box! Traditional advertisers understand very well that people will not rush to stores based on one published ad in the papers and that a TV commercial has to be aired at least 16 times in order to “stick” with its targeted audience. Likewise, it is clear that for any kind of sales effect we have to produce content (PR, advertising) and secure advertising budgets.

Right from the start people expected social networks to be magic boxes or to sell without having to invest in content production and allocating advertising budgets. As a result of such high expectations, many brands missed the opportunity to use the full potential of social networks as a sales channel.

What is the sales potential of social networks? Can you give us some concrete numbers and what is the position of IT in it?

We sold virtually everything using social networks – from a 5 kuna cheese to products worth tens of thousands of euros. What is interesting is that for every kuna we invested in social networks we sold 10 kunas of cheese, and we measured all our results in sales. With extremely expensive products that cost around ten thousand euros, each invested kuna was bringing several hundred or even a thousand kunas in sales, and we measured it all precisely and quantified it much to the satisfaction of our clients as well as our own.

Situation in Croatia

What is the current situation with social networks in Croatia?

One of the most interesting pieces of information when it comes to the use of the Internet in Croatia is that an average user is online 15.1 hours a week, while Croatians spend 17.5 hours a week in front of the TV, on average. This is the data from IAB MediaScope survey which was conducted in 2012, and with the adaptation of smartphones in the last two years, we are convinced that the Internet is now a media source that Croatians are paying most attention to. According to the same data -2.4 million Croatians are online, and they connect to broadband Internet using more than 1.2 connections, according to HAKOM’s data from 2012.

Social networks are an integral part of the lives of most Croatians that are online – Facebook in Croatia currently has 1.8 million profiles, while YouTube registers 4.742 million unique cookies in Croatia per month from users that consume content through desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and other devices.

ROI for AdWords

This is the ROI achieved by AdWords campaigns. Do you claim that Facebook, for instance, can sell as efficiently as AdWords?

Yes, that’s exactly what we’re claiming! Even though AdWords is an excellent channel for direct sales because we offer our services and products to consumers that use a Google search to satisfy their need, those sales are limited by the volume searches that are directly or indirectly linked to our product. Facebook on the other hand, through various methods and tools, offers us a chance to find precisely those buyers that have the need for our product, but have not yet started the active purchasing process, and they are yet to take the first step which is a google search to find our product. In the end, it is possible that the sale itself is conducted through AdWords, but this is why it is important to know how to measure when the sale was the result of the demand we created among potential buyers on Facebook.

What about other networks? What are the potentials of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and similar networks?

Each of these networks definitely offers its own potential, however, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and similar networks have to evolve and offer sophisticated advertising possibilities like the ones offered by Facebook. Until then, their commercial value will mostly be in their role as a customer support and crisis communication channel. YouTube, on the other hand, recently started offering enormous potential through TrueView advertising which now makes it a direct competition to televisions. By using the exact same method in which TV advertising results are measured, YouTube, in the very minimal option, offers the same level of efficiency for a price that is 4 times lower than TV advertising. If you use the possibility offered by YouTube advertising to only show the ad according to, for instance, age, sex, location, interest and keywords – media equivalents are multiplied, completely dethroning television!

How does Internet affect PR?

The job of a 21st century PR agency is to encompass all forms of online presence and online content – from website development, SEO optimisation, AdWords and Facebook advertising and community management to display advertising, email marketing and analytics. It is important to notice the PR mechanisms that are applied to online, and that would be the need to manage the communication of our clients with consumers. Consumers are present in all online spheres and this is why it is our duty to conform to the consumers and the ways in which they come in contact with our information.

The use of all above mentioned tools and channels is a great opportunity to successfully establish an online communication with a large number of consumers. This is why the task of traditional PR agencies is changing and demands that they adjust and find a way to communicate with the consumers. Manjgura is a pioneer in this field. We were among the first to use digital media as a powerful tool in our PR campaigns. All online tools and channels are important to us – regardless of whether we are developing a new website, onsite and offsite SEO optimisation, AdWords campaigns in the search and display network, media buying on online portals, Facebook campaigns, community management, Facebook applications or mobile applications.

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