RENO, Nev. — As the calendar turns to 2018, social media and digital marketing are becoming more and more a part of the business world.
And if companies aren’t already embracing the available social and digital platforms, they should make the practice part of their business plans, says Michael Thomas, chief marketing officer for Noble Studios, a Reno-based digital marketing firm that serves a variety of clients through offices in Reno, Las Vegas, San Francisco and the United Kingdom.
“Social media isn’t going away anytime soon,” Thomas said. “A lot of new technology is making it easier for companies to better monetize their social media presence.”
In a recent interview with the NNBW, Thomas highlighted a few of the social media and digital trends he says are here to stay.
One of the biggest areas is the continued evolution of natural user interface technology, or “voice technology.” The technology is already used in Artificial Intelligence (or AI) devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri.
For example, Google and Walmart recently announced a partnership to allow customers of the retail giant to “voice shop” via Google Assistant, as reported in a Dec. 29, 2017, article by MarTech Today.
The article concluded that eventually, consumers will be more likely to bypass mobile devices for voice-activated digital assistants — by 2020, it’s expected 30 million U.S. homes will have voice-activated devices.
Thomas said it is imperative businesses start integrating voice technology also for mobile devices, adding that, “voice is also true in mobile devices when a person is looking for a place to eat, and driving customers to a site.”
“These AI devices will have computer technology that will learn to detect and recognize consumer patterns,” Thomas said. “Consumers will have fewer and fewer content choices when shopping. If a business does not have a good ‘voice,’ it can miss out on a lot of customers.”
Social media — and word of mouth
While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube dominate social media advertising — for good reason — William Crozer, director of digital content marketing for the Reno-based marketing firm The Glenn Group, and its sister company Wide Awake, says that businesses can’t forget other mediums such as Snapchat.
While Snapchat is known to attract a younger demographic, it still can be an effective tool to attract a larger audience, such as those in the hospitality industry.
“For example, casinos have been known to post videos of a step-by-step process of a restaurant chef preparing a meal,” Crozer said. “A local brewery may also show a variety of beers and ales they have on tap, while discussing the differences in each product.”
While social mediums are important in helping market a business, Crozer offered some other simple, cost effective tips for digital advertising.
Google My Business, also known as Google Local, is gaining traction as an online referral and rating service and is in competition with other competitors such as Yelp! and TripAdvisor, Crozer said.
A business can create a free account and post everything from an address listing, photos of its storefront and products and services it offers, while being able to constantly update the company’s address and contact information.
“Google has really embraced ‘Google My Business’ and encouraged businesses to engage with it,” Crozer said. “It can be essential to any brick and mortar business.”
Google My Business also allows customers to review a business, and then the business is instantly notified. Crozer said customer reviews are vital to business’s reputation — and even its bottom line.
“The No. 1 marketing tool has always been word of mouth,” Crozer said. “People will trust what others say about a business than what that a company will say about themselves.”
For instance, Crozer said a few of The Glenn Group’s clients are casinos, and they review numerous online customer reviews with varying degrees of satisfaction. He suggests companies treat each review like the customer told them how they felt face-to-face.
Further, how companies respond to reviews, whether positive or negative, can enhance — or damage — a company’s delicate reputation.
“Usually these responses are all over the place, from one star for poor service to five stars for excellent service. A company has to be sensitive to a client’s opinion, no matter the circumstances,” Crozer said. “One casino got a message that said ‘I lost all my money at your place!’ Rather than just say ‘Hey that’s your problem,’ the casino can say, ‘We’re sorry you had a bad experience, but we have a number of promotions that can increase your odds of winning next time and we’d love for you to come back and try again.’”
Tapping into ‘social influencers’
Noble’s Thomas said social media is continuing to utilize “social influencers” — social users who have established credibility in a certain industry.
For example, the clothing chain Old Navy tapped social influencer Meghan Rienks to appear on promotional ads on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Still, while the practice of utilizing social influencers has become an important social marketing tool, Thomas said they can come with drawbacks.
“Influencers are becoming very expensive, and consumers are becoming more cynical of them,” Thomas said. “Most consumers figure these people are receiving payment or free merchandise or free vacation trips for their services.”
In turn, he added that companies interested in social influencers need to find individuals who can project an authentic image of the product or services a company is marketing.
Even as social media evolves, Thomas says it’s important that businesses thoroughly understand and analyze audience data they are gathering from the various social media platforms they choose.
With that, they also have to develop comprehensive social profiles and monitor them on a consistent basis.
“They have to gather and analyze data, and figure out are the likes and reposts they see are really resulting in real sales,” Thomas said.