Don't overlook social media users as buyers, warns DM Days keynoter

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NEW YORK - All the new online media and technology, including podcasts and social networking, have left many of today's marketers overwhelmed and afraid to enter unknown waters.

That is largely because these emerging areas of marketing don't yet have a proven track record that helps marketers see the risk side of social media, according to panelists at the DM Days' keynote presentation, "Next Gen Interactive: How Marketers Are Optimizing the Power of Social Media to Connect and Deliver Results."

"Thirty percent of consumers who read blogs and other social media are likely to purchase," said Aaron Kahlow, managing director at BusinessOnline. "On the other hand, 80 percent of marketers who actually engage in social media are likely to purchase."

The Internet is a big influence on consumer purchases. In fact, 39 percent of purchases are influenced by the Internet; 18 percent by television; 12 percent by radio ads; 3 percent by magazines and a mere 2 percent by newspapers, Mr. Kahlow said.

The question is, who's participating?

Mr. Kahlow said creators are the ones who participate. Then there are critics, collectors and couch potatoes.

"These people want to have say and want to know when something is wrong," Mr. Kahlow said. "They want to be able to help make things better."

So is social media a fad or a phenomenon? Mr. Kahlow asked the rest of the panelists.

"It's definitely very real," said Rebecca Lieb, editor in chief of the ClickZ Network.

"Fifty percent of all adults online are contributing content on some sort of social-media channel," said Leslie Reiser, program director at IBM. "Be a part of the conversation; you have the power to influence."

Listening is a good place to start when trying to enter this channel, said Jennifer

Juckett, vice president at VMIX.

So what is important to remember when entering this channel?

"The behaviors of consumers have not changed," said Greg Verdino, chief strategy officer of Crayon. "It is simply the environment in which they behave in that has changed."

Mr. Redino said that the openness of the conversations in social media is what makes this a good medium for branding.

"People are going to be having this conversation with or without you," Ms. Lieb said.

The technology, broadband proliferation and the fact that online is the preferred communication method is what makes this channel effective, Ms. Reiser said.

All the panelists agreed that it is hard to put hard numbers down when it comes to measurement in this space. For example, you can say that the blogosphere is talking about your product or services a lot. But exactly how much is a lot?

Driving consumers back to your Web site from your blog, whether it be for a promotion or coupons or more information, could be an effective way to track this channel.

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