In these difficult economic times, it is important for all companies to become more cost-efficient. One of the ways you can lower your marketing costs is by turning to social media marketing (in case you’re not doing that already). Promoting your brand on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter doesn’t cost you anything (except for the salary of the person who’s doing the job) and is increasingly viewed as the best way to market your product to your target audience. Here’s a list of 35+ companies that are using social media to carry out their brand message, amongst them, Coca Cola, Cisco, Intel, Dell, etc.

Where’s your social media presence?

According to Phantom CTO, consumers even expect a social media presence from brands:

“The highlights of the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study came out recently. The results of the study point to a growing trend in how consumers want to be reached by businesses. The study found that 60% of American consumers use social media and of those more than half interact with businesses on social media websites.  93% of American consumers who use social media expect companies to have a social media presence and 85% of them believe those companies should be interacting with consumers through social media.

Cone Researchers say that the results mean that “Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media,” explains Mike Hollywood, director of new media for Cone, “it isn’t an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion.”

Some social networks statistics

Social networks ARE seen as a welcome channel for discussion by consumers.  See below chart from Forrester as well which breaks down interest by age groups (Note: This research was done a few months back and percentages are probably higher by now):

2958940489 508bd05c5a Why You Should Turn to Social Media During This Economic Crisis

Much like social networks, coverage in the blogosphere is also a great way to get exposure for your brand and targeting those bloggers who would be specifically interested in your product is the secret formula for receiving the exposure you need. Don’t forget that bloggers are opinion leaders and their “say” is a crucial factor determining your product’s success or failure.  If you approach the right bloggers that you think would get added value from your product, and you are able to gain their devotion as users and writers, then you have received coverage directly targeted at the right audience, without paying a dime.

In his newsletter, Chris Brogan writes:

“Are you spending on search terms? Shift some of those dollars into a company blog that builds organic search value with posts about your products, services, and the people who make them. Blogs are inexpensive and easy to launch.

Are you looking to spread your existing marketing spend? How about considering which components can go online and stretch the value? Any dollars spent for video or TV production should be easy targets for new media production and YouTube distribution. Several BILLION views a month can’t be wrong. Just be sure to put URLs in the actual video itself, and if you use their overlay tools, all the better.”

YouTube as a marketing tool

Video sites like YouTube and Vimeo can be great marketing tools for you to distribute your videos to a mass audience. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on expensive media productions. It’s all about user generated content. Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be entertaining, but definitely doesn’t need to be a mass production. Many of the most viral videos around have been created on zero budget.

Roger Ehrenberg writes:

“Sure, its harder to raise money. Sure, the osmotic effect of bad feelings in the public markets and the job market challenge one’s optimism and perspective. But net net, opportunities abound, the same if not better opportunities then before the financial markets started to melt down. The crisis forces the survivors to place an even greater emphasis on efficiency, customer intimacy, value creation and relevance. Historical ways of doing business are being challenged by new ways of accessing content, the push towards open-source solutions, the different ways in which influence is created and disseminated and the high-value goods and services being created and delivered from low-cost, offshore sources.”

The cheapest path is the best path

It is not often that the cheapest path is the best path, but in this case, it is. Web 2.0 has given us the free tools that we can all use to brand ourselves and expose our brands more effectively, so why not use them? Social media tools allow us to engage in direct conversations with our users and build a strong and loyal following as well as create brand awareness.

Here’s an amazing post written by Chris Brogan detailing  50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing. You’ll be able to get many great tips from this post on how to use social media tools most efficiently.

It is important to remember that when you use social media platforms you must become an active member of the community and not only promote your brand but actually listen to what users have to say and observe what interests them. If you don’t follow this rule, you will do more damage than good to your brand name. If you are not an expert in social media, I suggest hiring a social media expert (at least for the initial months) in order to lead you on the right path.

For more information on how to use social media, please see previous posts:

I wish you all much luck. These are not easy times for startups but as I wrote in my previous post, I believe that those companies that have unique and valuable concepts will still be able to get the funding they need, if not from VC’s, then from angels.