Recommendations rule both on and offline: SES panel

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Both on and offline, consumers often ask others for recommendations when making purchasing decisions. For that reason, among others, more companies are utilizing social media tactics to further their brands online, said Pauline Ores, senior marketing manager of social media engagement at IBM, at a panel at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York.

Ores mediated the panel, which featured speakers from Yahoo, Comedy Central, BlogHer, Ogilvy and 10e20.

Social sites allow brands and people to engage in a dialog with one another, said Conn Fishburn, director of social media strategy at Yahoo. Through social networks, people articulate their interests and passions and share marketing messages, he said. Fishburn stressed a “holistic” marketing approach where social is just one channel of a brand's whole marketing strategy.

When people “Digg” or “become friends” with a particular brand online, it has tremendous impact, said Chris Beland, director of interactive marketing and social media practice at Ogilvy. Online, likeminded people tend to cluster, and word of mouth is a key influencer in personal as well as business purchase decisions, he continued.

Social tagging and bookmarking through sites like del.icio.us are other effective ways to draw more traffic and links to sites, said Chris Winfield, president of 10e20. However, he added, brands must first produce quality content — like videos, articles and images — that people will want to link to. If enough people like the content, then they will recommend it to others on these sites, causing a ripple effect across the Internet, he said.

Comedy Central utilizes this practice by allowing third party sites like the Huffington Post or Daily Kos to post clips from its shows, like the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, said Don Steele, director of digital and enterprise marketing for the cable channel. “We understand that our audience is finding us in so many different ways and places,” he said. Therefore, Comedy's Central's goal is to make sure that its content is discoverable, branded and portable, he added.

Blogs are another effective social media marketing tool, said Jory Des Jardins, co-founder and president of strategic alliances at BlogHer Inc. Blogs tend to rank high in natural search and posts can linger on the Web for years, she noted.

Some brands fear that a blogger may say something negative about their products, Jardins said. “But you can't control that there is going to be blog content out there,” she said, continuing that there are ways to deal with bloggers in ways that won't hurt brands. What bloggers are saying isn't always that important — what's important is that they're talking about the product and getting the word out, she said.

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